Parliamentary historical heritage treasures go up in flames — president

02 January 2022 - 16:52 By TIMESLIVE
Flames emerge from the roof of parliament in Cape Town on January 2 2022.
Flames emerge from the roof of parliament in Cape Town on January 2 2022.
Image: Twitter/Brendan Widan

The blaze that ripped through parliament early on Sunday morning devastated the precinct claiming its contents and assets, including historical treasures of heritage.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said he was “deeply saddened by the scenes all of us are witnessing today as flames engulf the home of our democracy in the precinct of parliament”.

He said parliament and government security agencies were investigating the cause of the incident as police confirmed that a 49-year old had been taken in for questioning.

“While these investigations continue, I believe we are united as a nation in our sadness at this destruction of the home of our democracy.”

Ramaphosa said he had asked the speaker to convene a joint sitting of parliament for the state of the nation address scheduled for February 10.

“In the wake of this devastating occurrence we will continue to consult on what we can do to ensure continuity in the functioning of parliament as the critical institution in our democratic infrastructure.”

However, the president said despite the damage, the work of parliament will continue.

Ramaphosa heaped praise on fire officials and City of Cape Town crews who responded to the blaze.

The CoCT said there were about 70 firefighters currently on the scene as black smoke continues to rise from the National Assembly building. 

According to the city, there is extensive damage to Alpha (the old assembly) and a structural ceiling collapse in the new assembly building.

READ IN FULL: PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA'S STATEMENT

I am deeply saddened by the scenes all of us are witnessing today as flames engulf the home of our democracy in the precinct of parliament.

This is a disastrous event that should sadden all of us.

This is devastating, coming as it does a day after our send-off for Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Waking up to the destruction of parliament is a terrible setback from what we were basking in yesterday.

The archbishop would have been devastated as well, as this is a place he prayed for, supported and wanted to see as a repository of our democracy.

Notwithstanding the damage that has been done to this precinct, the work of parliament will carry on. My thoughts are with the speaker of the National Assembly, the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, the acting secretary to parliament, the management and staff of parliament; as well as members of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces, and their support staff.

I am being briefed by the speaker of the National Assembly, the minister of public works and infrastructure, the minister of police and the deputy minister in the presidency with responsibility for state security.

We appreciate the speedy response of the Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town in mobilising the response to this emergency.

The real praise and applause belongs to the fire officials and crews of the City of Cape Town who have done a great job.

While they have worked to stop parliament from being razed to ashes, it is very clear that this fire has devastated the parliamentary precinct and its contents and assets, including parliament’s historical treasures of heritage.

Parliament and the security agencies of government are looking into the cause of this incident and we must allow these investigation to continue.

While these investigations continue, I believe we are united as a nation in our sadness at this destruction of the home of our democracy.

I have recently requested the speaker to convene a joint sitting of parliament for the state of the nation address on Thursday, February 10 2022.

In the wake of this devastating occurrence we will continue to consult on what we can do to ensure continuity in the functioning of parliament as the critical institution in our democratic infrastructure.

TimesLIVE

*In an earlier version of this story, the suspect's age was 51. This has been corrected following an update from the Hawks.


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