Public and private sector lauded for support following Parliament fire

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National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has lauded both public and private entities for the overwhelming support they have been giving Parliament following the fire.

Mapisa-Nqakula says they have received offers from entities including the Cape Town International Convention Centre to use some of its facilities while repairs get under way at Parliament.

She has also praised Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis who has offered Parliament the City Hall and the Council chambers for use.

“Since Sunday when the fire broke out, Parliament and government have held onto the line that we should wait for the outcome of an investigation into the causes.”

However the Speaker has abandoned that narrative saying she feels strongly that there are forces of darkness at work.

Mapisa-Nqakula is a former chairperson of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and a former Minister of Defence.

The roof of the Old Wing, which dates back to 1884 and houses the upper chamber National Council of Provinces (NCOP), also partially collapsed.

However, important sections including a museum with artworks and heritage objects were saved, as was an embroidered tapestry telling the story of the Eastern Cape on the ground floor of theOld Assembly Building, officials said.

Earlier on Monday firefighters had managed to extinguish most of the initial blaze.

As the new fire flared, Parliament said firefighters had been reinforced with additional equipment and personnel.

A city update released around 10 pm local time (2000 GMT) said the fourth and fifth floors of the new wing, above the national assembly, were “completely gutted” as wind-fanned flames threatened historic Tuynhuys, the Cape Town office of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“Heavy duty aerial firefighting (equipment) have just arrived that can operate within the current strong winds,” city officials said.

The Parliament has played a crucial role in South Africa’s transition from white minority rule as the place where transformative legislation has been passed, helping roll back repressive policies implemented under the apartheid era.

In a separate statement, the elite Hawks police said the suspect was believed to have gained entry to the Parliament through a window in one of the offices.

Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula said President Ramaphosa’s address to Parliament, set for February 10, would still go ahead.