Police arrest man suspected to be behind South African parliament fire

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Jan 02, 2022, 11:16 PM(IST)

Firefighters work among the smoke after a fire broke out in the Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, January 2, 2022 Photograph:( Reuters )

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Water sprinkler system inside the South African parliament designed to douse fire appears to have been tampered with. more investigation is on

A man in his 50s was arrested by police in connection with South African parliament fire. It appears that the water sprinkler system designed to combat fire was tampered with as a result of which it did not work.

The fire started early on Sunday (January 2) morning (local time) and firefighters were still trying to contain the blaze by afternoon. The suspect was arrested from inside the parliament complex.

Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia De Lille told reporters that CCTV footage had revealed that someone was inside the parliament complex since morning.

The cause of the blaze was not yet known but De Lille said that according to a report that she received, a standard maintenance fire drill had been conducted just before parliament closed for the Christmas and New Year holidays and everything including the sprinklers was working.

 

"What was discovered this morning is that somebody has closed one of the valves and so then there was no water to trigger that automatic sprinkler system coming on," De Lille said

She said that investigation had been handed to an elite police unit called the Hawks.

"It's the role of the Hawks to investigate any attack on political institutions," De Lille said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa told reporters after visiting the site that parliament's work would continue despite the blaze. He also praised firefighters for saving a "very important national asset of our government".

PARTLY CONTAINED

The parliamentary complex, some of which dates back to 1884, consists of a cluster of buildings. The National Assembly, or lower House of Parliament, is situated in what is known as the New Wing.

The upper house, or National Council of Provinces (NCOP), is located in what is called the Old Wing or Old Assembly, which is also used for committee meetings.

"The fire has been contained in the Old Wing. Firefighters are currently trying to control the fire in the New Wing, where the fire has affected the National Assembly Chamber," parliament said in a statement.

Jean-Pierre Smith, a Cape Town mayoral committee member responsible for safety and security, said the roof of the old building had collapsed, and added the fire had gutted the third floor of the building, including office space and the gymnasium.

He also told reporters that the parliament's fire alarm only rang when firefighters were already on site.

By afternoon smoke had partially subsided after billowing for hours from the roof and entrance of the National Assembly. But City of Cape Town fire services chief Jermaine Carelse said the fire was still active, and was now concentrated on the first and third floor.

The fire, which started just before 6 a.m., was the second at the parliament in less than a year. In March there was a blaze caused by an electrical fault.

"It is egregious that such a thing happened in the first place, there must be no question about it. Whether it was a result of security breaches, which may be apparent to some people, we don't know," Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Lechesa Tsenoli said.

National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told reporters that Ramaphosa's state of the nation address to a joint session of parliament would go ahead as planned on Feb.10 but an alternative venue would have to be used.

(With inputs from agencies)

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