- We have just been in a briefing meeting by all critical role-players, on this devastating incident of fire that gutted some important buildings of the Parliamentary Precinct, and its aftermath.
- We are indeed devastated and deeply saddened. We are pained by the damage of the Old Assembly Chamber and building, the National Assembly Chamber, and critical offices of Parliament – which are a National Key Point and the legislative seat of our country, whose value is beyond any measure. This democratic institution has a deep history which represents unparalleled heritage treasures for our country and a source of social unity and cohesion required in our nation building programme.
- We can confirm that one of the biggest loses the people of South Africa have suffered in this fire, is the complete burning down of the National Assembly Chamber, a seat of crucial plenary sittings of the National Assembly and joint sittings of the two Houses – the NA and NCOP. The Assembly, as one of the two Houses of Parliament, occupies an important place in the history and evolution of our constitutional democracy. This is the House where over two thousand transformative pieces of legislation have been passed since the dawn of our democracy. The National Assembly Building is historically the third of a series of phases of interlinked buildings comprising Parliament. It was built between 1983 and 1985, to accommodate the expanded needs of the apartheid Tri-cameral Parliament.
- The building follows the same neo-classical style of the other two buildings, and a notable feature of the façades is that all the decorative elements were skilfully made up of prefabricated concrete, using special moulds prepared for this purpose. The architects also made extensive use of local granite and marble for the lobbies, with rich geometric details and patterns, referencing the original 1885 building of the National Council of Provinces Building from 100 years earlier. In 2008, new offices were added for the President, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker. These new additions have not been affected by the fire.
- We appreciate the fact that some important sections were saved. These include the NCOP Chamber and offices, the Parliament Library, the Museum including artworks and heritage objects as well as the Keiskama tapestry on the ground floor of the Old Assembly Building.
- We wish to reiterate our gratitude to the responsive Fire Fighting and Rescue Services of the City of Cape Town, the Minister and the Department of Public Works Ms Patricia De Lille and the South African Police Services, as well as our officials.
- We are grateful to the President Cyril Ramaphosa and a number of members of his executive, who have been hands on from the outset and provided necessary moral support to the firefighters.
- The multi-agency and multi-pronged investigations are underway, and will be in full swing once the whole building is declared safe and handed over to the investigation team. We wish to assure all the people in South Africa that we will leave no stone unturned to enable appropriate actions to be taken by all relevant authorities.
- A multidisciplinary team of professional engineers has now arrived in Parliament to determine the cause of fire, the extent of damage, the safety of the building, and the estimate cost as well as timelines for repairs, and will provide a preliminary report in due course.
- As demonstrated during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Parliament will once again demonstrate its resilience and adaptability to ensure sustained delivery on its three-legged mandate of law-making, executive oversight and public participation. This phase requires resilience, to ensure that the work of Parliament carries on with minimal disruption, in consultation with other arms of the state including the Presidency and the custodian of public facilities – the Department of Public Works. We wish to assure you the State of the Nation Address and the Budget Speech and other programmes will proceed as planned. Details will be shared when concrete alternatives are done.
- We have noted a number of speculative reports regarding the cause of this incident, including those circulating in the social media space. What has been even more worrying is that some of these statements have been attributed to formal statements by organisations. We reiterate our appeal for calm, caution against any speculation and encourage everyone to afford both the law enforcement authorities and forensics teams, the space to investigate and provide the much-needed conclusive information. The precinct of Parliament continue to be guarded by the South African Police Services, which was responsible for alerting the fire department when the fire started. Anyone with valuable information that they feel could assist in the investigations is encouraged to supply such to the relevant authorities, instead of making wild and unhelpful speculations.
- As the Presiding Officers we are humbled by the messages of support and offers for assistance from various organisations and public institutions. We have received offers from both the provincial and local governments in the Western Cape for the temporary use of their office spaces and meeting rooms. We have also received messages of support from sister organisations such as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Forum.
ISSUED BY PARLIAMENT OF SOUTH AFRICA
Enquiries: Moloto Mothapo, 0823706930