Man charged with setting parliament on fire
A man has been charged over Sunday’s fire that severely damaged the Cape Town parliament buildings. An investigation has been referred to South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, known as ‘the Hawks’.
“A 49-year-old suspect was arrested and charged with housebreaking and theft, arson and will also be charged under The National Key Point Act,” the South African Police Service said in a statement. The 1980 National Key Points Act grants protection to sites of national strategic importance.
Police said the suspect was spotted by members of the Protection and Security Services soon after the fire started, and caught “with suspected stolen property.”
“The case was referred to the Hawks’ Crimes Against the State (CATS) team for further investigation. The motive for his actions is subject to investigation,” they added.
The suspect is due to appear in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
The spokesman for the City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Service, Jermaine Carelse, confirmed on Monday morning that around 20 firefighters remain at the scene “attending to hotspots” in the aftermath of the “very challenging” fire.
The blaze completely destroyed the third floor of the 1884 Old Assembly Building, and part of the ceiling collapsed. It also damaged the National Assembly building, added during the 1980s, where the parliament holds sessions.
“I would say it would take a very long time for the National Assembly to be up and running again,” Carelse said, as quoted by CapeTalk radio.
The fate of some artifacts, including an original manuscript of the national anthem, is not clear yet.
Investigators will not be able to enter the parliament building until the Fire and Rescue Service declares it safe. They will try to establish, among other things, why the sprinkler system failed to activate during the fire.