South African Parliament targeted in suspected arson attack

A deadly fire has swept through the South African Parliament building, destroying much of its historical architecture.
3 min read
South Africa

The debating chamber of the South African’s Parliament was destroyed by a catastrophic fire yesterday. It is suspected that the fire had been the plot of an arson attack and the fire is still not yet fully under control.

The inferno caused one of the structures of the buildings’ roof to come down after it was suspected someone had tampered with the Parliament’s fire safety sprinkler system, which did not activate upon the flames erupting. The smoke from the fire could be seen for miles from Cape Town.

A 51-year-old man is being questioned for his potential involvement within the fire as The Hawks, the elite investigations unit for South Africa, took the case from the police. After 12 hours, security guards set the building’s alarms off and called the police just before 6 am, to which more than 70 firefighters responded. It is expected the man will be charged with arson, housebreaking and theft, as well as being prosecuted under the National Key Points Act – which protects buildings or complexes ‘of strategic importance, according to Brigadier Nomthandazo Mbambo.

Molotov Mothapo, a spokesperson for the Parliament told reporters: ‘The entire chamber where the members sit…has burned down.’

It is reported that the flames within the newest areas of the building complex have not yet been fully extinguished. The fire started at the third-floor offices before quickly spreading to other parts of the structure, including the National Assembly.

President Ramaphosa described the Parliament as ‘the home of our democracy, and said that ‘this is a disastrous event that should sadden all of us.’

Currently, the largest political party that has standing in the Parliament is the African National Congress with 230 seats while the Democratic Alliance of South Africa holds 84 seats. The Congress has a total of 400 members. However, the government actually sits in Pretoria, not Cape Town.

The building, which takes its design influence from the English House of Commons, and some parts of the complex date back to the late 19th century, which is in danger of eroding after the scorching flames melted the infrastructure.

South Africa has been on edge ever since they saw riots ravaging through the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces – alarming the nation as to a potential arson attack this time around.

It is reported that there are no injuries caused to others by the fire. A similar fire struck the University of Cape Town’s library, which housed many archives of African texts.

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