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Probe finds that Parliament fire could have been avoided

todayOctober 18, 2023 49

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An investigation into the devastating fire, which gutted parts of the National Assembly, has revealed that the blaze could have been avoided.
A fire broke out in January last year, damaging the buildings that house the chambers of the National Assembly and critical offices of Parliament.
The fire took three days to contain and required the labour force of over 300 men and women.
Parliament’s Secretary, Xolile George, says the absence of Parliament’s Protection Officers on that fateful day is one of the human errors that contributed to the costly blaze.
He says the investigation identified a range of systems and maintenance failures that significantly contributed to both the security breach and failure to prevent and contain the fire.
“The absence of perimeter monitoring and a malfunctioning emergency exit door was also identified on the physical aspect, as well as deficiencies in the fire panels and an unreliable fire management system.”
George also indicated that the absence of onsite Parliamentary Protection Officers resulted in the lack of CCTV monitoring and overall view of the precinct.
“We’ve also heard how the historical parliamentary building did not have a designated head of security at the time of the blaze.”
George says Parliament will now prioritise security and deal with heightening of physical and operational capabilities.
The investigation report also revealed that five officials were implicated in a number of areas that constituted the failures of security measures and general management of Parliament.
The Department of Public Works and the South African Police Services (SAPS) have also been found to have contributed to the breaching of measures.
“In those cases of the role of other stakeholders in the failures that led to the security breach and fire incident in January, it is recommended that the findings related to their [DPW & SAPS] involvement ¬†be disclosed in an appropriate forum.”
George says consequential management and remedial actions will be taken to address the shortcomings of the Public Works Department and SAPS in relation to this matter.
Technical assessments revealed that it will cost over R2 billion and take at least three years to refurbish Parliament.
Mafe unfit
The man who is accused of starting the fire at Parliament, Zandile Mafe, is still awaiting trial.
The 50-year-old faces several charges, including terrorism.
He previously admitted to torching the National Assembly in court and threatened to burn more of it, should the DA continue being part of the National Legislature.
In August, Mafe was declared unfit to stand trial, meaning that his case will now be handled under section 77 of the Criminal Procedure Act, which refers to an accused who suffers from mental illness.

Written by: Lindiwe Mpanza

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