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Suspect arrested and charged as fire reignites at South Africa's Parliament

January 4, 2022 9:48 am

A 49-year-old suspect has been arrested and charged in connection to a large fire that “gutted” South Africa’s Parliament complex in Cape Town on Sunday, according to police.

The blaze tore through Parliament on Sunday, causing the roof of one building to collapse and gutting the chamber of the National Assembly. On Monday, the blaze flared up again, with dozens of firefighters sent back to once again battle the flames, according to the a statement from Parliament’s presiding officers.

The suspect, who is due to appear in the Cape Town Magistrates Court on Tuesday, has been charged with housebreaking, theft and arson, police said in a statement. The suspect will also be charged under The National Key Point Act, an act that provides for the declaration and protection of sites of national strategic importance.

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The suspect was allegedly caught with suspected stolen property after gaining entry to the parliamentary precinct in Cape Town, and was spotted by members of the Protection and Security Services (PSS) when they noticed the building was on fire, police said.

The incident and the suspect’s motive are under further investigation by the Crimes Against the State (CATS) team.

The parliamentary complex, some of which dates to 1884, consists of a cluster of buildings. The National Assembly, or lower house of Parliament, is in what is known as the New Wing. The upper house, or National Council of Provinces, is located in what is called the Old Assembly.

The fire started in the office area of the complex before spreading to the National Assembly chambers, according to JP Smith, a Cape Town mayoral committee member responsible for safety and security.
Smith told reporters Sunday that “the entire parliamentary complex is severely damaged, waterlogged and smoke damaged.”

“The roof above the Old Assembly hall is completely gone and the offices adjacent to it and the gym are destroyed,” Smith added. “The National Assembly chamber behind me, which you can see, is gutted, the structural ceiling has collapsed and the fire staff had to be momentarily withdrawn.”

Images from the scene Sunday showed flames shooting out of the top of one building, sending plumes of thick black smoke into the sky above Parliament and into neighboring streets.

No injuries or fatalities have been reported.

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