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South Africa: Parliament confirms containment of fire

By APO Group
05 January 2022   |   6:00 pm
Download logoIt is with a great sense of relief that Parliament confirms the containment of the fire flare up at the roof of the National Assembly (NA) on Monday, and there has not been any further fire incident. The last 24 hours had been critical, with firefighters closely monitoring and combing through the scene. After…

Republic of South Africa: The Parliament
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It is with a great sense of relief that Parliament confirms the containment of the fire flare up at the roof of the National Assembly (NA) on Monday, and there has not been any further fire incident.

The last 24 hours had been critical, with firefighters closely monitoring and combing through the scene.

After the firefighters contained the fire at midnight yesterday, they remained on-site, although at reduced capacity for monitoring the situation, to conduct a thorough assessment and to establish the extent of the damage caused.

Since Sunday, there have been 300 firefighters working shifts and over 60 fire engine vehicles. One fire engine remains at the scene currently, with five crew members working throughout all the floors, ensuring no flare-ups.

The firefighters will assess later this afternoon for possible total withdrawal from the site today and see if the building is safe to be handed over to the South African Police Services.

The Presiding Officers of Parliament, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Mr Amos Masondo applaud the lionhearted firefighters. The firefighters fought to bring the fire at the Parliamentary precinct under control.

The extent of the damage in the NA is severe. The Presiding Officers confirm that efforts to save the Mace were successful yesterday after two days of the fire. It has been retrieved from its safe storage without any damage.

The Mace is an important symbol that signifies the authority and sitting of the NA. It is carried into the Chamber by the Serjeant-at-Arms and announces the arrival of the Speaker of the NA.

It signifies that the House is formally in session and that its proceedings are official. The Mace was designed to reflect the history, traditions, and diverse cultures and languages of South Africa. The design also celebrates its natural beauty, plant and animal life, and rich mineral resources.

The NA Speaker remains grateful for saving the Mace as its recreation could be difficult.

The Museum is also unharmed from the ravaging fire including artworks and heritage objects and the Keiskamma tapestry on the ground floor of the Old Assembly Building.

The Keiskamma Tapestry tells the South African story – in beadwork, skins and embroidery – from the perspective of ordinary people. It is 112 metres long and 70 metres high. Women from the Keiskamma Art Project, a community initiative and non-profit organisation in Hamburg, on the banks of the Keiskamma River in the Ngqushwa region of the Eastern Cape, made this artwork.

It is a powerful symbol of our people's Parliament. It demonstrates our support for women's empowerment and support for local initiatives. The former Speaker of the NA, Ms Baleka Mbete unveiled the tapestry in 2006 on International Women's Day, 8 March.

As part of the internal stakeholder meetings yesterday, the Presiding Officers briefed the leaders of political parties, the Chief Whips Forum and NEHAWU leadership.

The Presiding Officers reassured everyone that no stone would be left unturned in getting to the bottom of how the incident happened. They said Parliament would conduct its internal investigation on any lapses that contributed to the incident.

“We don't want to make any speculations about what may have led to this incident, but we continue to be very concerned that the institution of Parliament and its symbols could be destroyed in this manner. So, we will demand full accountability and if so found, for those responsible to be punished”, said the Presiding Officers.

They further asked all to work together despite the incident and find ways to ensure that Parliament's work continues and will not allow the disaster to derail the institution's important work.

Furthermore, they confirmed that the State of the Nation Address, Budget Speech, and other programmes would proceed as planned.

Parliament will share further details about where and how these events will occur.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: The Parliament.