Firefighters are still battling to contain a fire at Parliament after it flared up on Monday.
Spokesperson Jermaine Carelse says the strong wind has ignited the smouldering wood inside the roof sheeting of the national assembly.
“The void beneath the roof sheeting of the national assembly is on fire,” he says.
“Current situation is that the wind has been getting steadily stronger and ignited the smouldering wood inside the roof void space, parts of which are not accessible for dousing or dampening. The strategy is to contain to current fire area above 4th and 5th floor.”
Carelse says eight pumps and approximately 34 firefighters and are on scene trying to contain the fire.
The following road closures are currently in place:
- Bureau and Adderley
- Roeland at Hope Street
- Plein between Spin and St John's
- Roeland closed at Buitenkant towards Parliament
- St John's closed at Vrede
One person has been arrested in connection with the fire that broke out in Parliament on Sunday morning.
Minister of public works and infrastructure, Patricia de Lille, said: “I can confirm from (Western Cape SAPS commissioner Thembisile) Patekile, the docket is handed over to the Hawks. It is the role of the Hawks to investigate attacks on political institutions.
De Lille said the suspect was arrested inside Parliament and CCTV cameras showed someone was in the building from the early hours of the morning.
Commenting on suspicions of a possible inside job, Aunty Pat said: “It has been discovered that the valve for the sprinklers had been closed, and when the fire broke out, the sprinklers didn’t work.
ANARCHY: Parliament on fire. Video: Twitter/Ulrich Janse van Vuuren
“At the moment we cannot say whether the person is one of the workers in parliament. But we can confirm that he has been arrested.”
“We’ll wait for more briefings on Monday and updates on the damages.
Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, JP Smith, said the fire started in a back office at parly.
“Yesterday morning just after 6.12am, City’s Fire and Rescue services received a call about a fire in Government Lane.
“They arrived six minutes later and found the building alight, at that stage it was at the office complex and it was moving to the gymnasium.
“They called for more resources. Fire stations from as far as Milnerton responded.”
Smith says the fire gutted the third floor gym area and there was extensive damage to adjacent offices. There was also a fire on the second floor.
“The firefighters were trying to control the fire that affected the National Assembly Chamber at midday. Although the fire was contained in the chambers, part of the ceiling collapsed.”
No injuries were reported.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking outside Parliament while assessing the damage, said the fire was a terrible setback just a day after the send-off of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu at nearby St George’s Cathedral.
He praised the response of the Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town.
“They have done a fantastic job… Had they not responded in the six minutes that they told me they responded within, I think we would be talking about the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces being in complete ashes,” he said.
Teams were on stand-by and measures put in place to protect Tuynhuys, which is the office of the Presidency.
National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the fire broke out while preparations were under way for the opening of Parliament, when Ramaphosa is to deliver his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on 10 February.
“But what has happened should not prevent us from listening to Sona,” she said.
“Our job is to find an alternative venue from where the president can address the nation.”
Meanwhile, the Congress of the People (COPE) deputy president suspects that the fire was an act of sabotage to destroy important documents.
Willie Madisha explained that the Zondo Commission was due to hand the president its report this week.
“We are terrified and surprised because there are extreme levels of security, which are tight, even me as a Member of Parliament cannot just go in, I go through security checks when I go to my office.
“The Zondo Commission will be reporting back, there is a whole lot of other material that will be looked into.
“All the documents have burned. There is no longer a parliament.
“I suspect that those who are guilty must have had a hand in the incident. This is not the first time, something must be done.”