National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula doused fiery statements made on social media about the cause of the fire that engulfed Parliament on Sunday morning.
What caused Parliament fire?
Distress calls rang off in Cape Town, shortly after 05:00 when plumes of smoke were seen permeating from the building on Plein Street. Addressing the media outside Parliament’s entry gates, Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia de Lille confirmed the blaze started in the Old Assembly.
Coincidentally, this is the same section of Parliament that was engulfed in flames in March 2021. However, investigations led by fire experts and SA police detectives had not yielded leads on what may have caused Sunday’s inferno and, moreover, whether the two incidents are, in any way, related.
Theories have sprung up on social media on what may have caused the Parliament fire, with some speculating that this may have been a deliberate attempt.
Since state capture report is about to be released. The perpatrators are shaking, so they rather burn parliament. Our constitution is under attack. pic.twitter.com/NaWgq5inhD— Melancoly (@Melancoly3) January 2, 2022
Mapisa-Nqakula was quick to dismiss claims that South Africa was under attack. In a statement, she said:
“No one can say at this point that this is an attack on our democracy,” she said.
The Speaker, however, did not rule out the possibility of the Parliament fire being an arson attack. If this was the case, she said, then “it is not an attack on Parliament. It would be an attack on everything South Africa has fought for.”
Person of interest is being questioned on cause of fire
A preliminary report into the fire will be released to the public within 24 hours, Mapisa-Nqakula confirmed.
President Cyril Ramaphosa arrived at the scene of the fire shortly after 13:00 to inspect the damage. Speaking to the media, in the company of Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille and Cape Town Premier Alan Winde, Ramaphosa confirmed at least one person of interest has been held for questioning in relation to the Parliament fire.
While being careful not to reveal everything early into the investigation, Ramaphosa did mention that significant damage was observed in a number of sections of the building. He was, however, thankful of the fire and rescue officials who reacted quickly in dousing the inferno.
“They intervened at the right time. Their appearance has saved a very important national key point,” he said.
No further information has been released on the suspect.
This is a developing story.
Here is video footage of Parliament engulfed in flames.
The South African Parliament in Cape Town has been burning for years.— Ulrich Janse van Vuuren (@UlrichJvV) January 2, 2022