CAPE TOWN – ONE The blaze that ravaged South Africa’s parliament on Sunday flared up again on Monday afternoon, fire officials said. The cause of the blaze is under investigation and a man in police custody in connection with the blaze is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday, officials said.
Books and shelves were smoldering in the National Assembly building, officials said earlier on Monday, and some burnt areas were still extremely hot, said JP Smith, a member of the Cape Town mayor’s committee for safety and security. .
Those who saw the damage described the buildings of the historic old assembly and the new assembly as “gutted”.
The 49-year-old man was arrested on Sunday morning. As the fire burned and firefighters rushed to the scene, security personnel spotted the man. He entered without permission and was found to be carrying stolen items, police said.
He will appear before a Cape Town magistrate’s court on Tuesday for arson, theft and burglary, the police directorate responsible for priority criminal investigations said in a statement. The statement failed to further identify the suspect.
Smoke began to rise above the building around 6 a.m. Sunday, Smith said. The blaze was active in two separate areas, raising suspicion among officials as to why buildings between the two had not burned down.
More than 30 firefighters were returned to Parliament’s precinct in central Cape Town after flames reappeared on the roof of the main Parliament building in the late afternoon, the Associated Press reported.
On Monday morning, the interior of the National Assembly was “largely destroyed by fire, water, heat and smoke,” Smith said.
Mr Smith said the Parliament complex was badly damaged. The facade of the National Assembly building also showed “significant cracks”, he added. Forensic investigators were assessing the extent of the destruction, Smith said.
The fire spread from an office space on the third floor of a building adjacent to the former National Assembly building to a gymnasium and the rooftops.
No injuries or deaths were reported. Parliamentary officials said they were not aware of any sensitive documents that may have been affected by the fire. But offices belonging to African National Congress lawmakers as well as two small opposition parties – the Good Party and the National Freedom Party – were among those severely damaged.
Parliament was not in session because it had been closed for the holidays. President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address, the first major event of the year on the parliamentary calendar, is due to take place on February 10.
Cape Town is no stranger to fires, and forest fires on the slopes of its famous Table Mountain have had a devastating impact in recent years. Last year, a forest fire spread to the University of Cape Town, where it devoured the Special Collections Library, which houses one of the world’s largest collections of books, films, photographs and other primary sources documenting the history of southern Africa.