• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Fire guts South Africa’s 138-year-old parliament complex

Fire guts South Africa’s 138-year-old parliament complex

It was a sad day for South Africans after laying to rest the remains of Desmond Tutu on Saturday; a fire outbreak destroyed the country’s 138-year-old parliament complex on Sunday.

The fire ripped through the South African historic parliament complex gutting offices and causing some ceilings to collapse at a site that has hosted some of the country’s pivotal moments.

According to the Associated Press, as firefighters struggled to tame the blaze, a dark plume of smoke and flames rose high into the air above the southern city of Cape Town, the city where Tutu was buried on Saturday.

South Africans viewed the fire as a double blow on the first two days of the New Year, after saying farewell to Tutu and then seeing their parliament burn.

Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of South Africa said, “It is just really a terrible setback. The Archbishop (Tutu) would have been devastated as well. This is a place he supported and prayed for.”

Ramaphosa, who was on a visit to the scene, said a person was “being held and is being questioned” by police in connection with the blaze.

Police Force confirmed later that a 51-year-old man had been detained.

Read also: Tribute to the archbishop Desmond Tutu

Jermaine Carelse More, the Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said that more than 70 fire-fighters were seen battling the fire for hours after it started in the early morning of Sunday. Though it was a massive fire outbreak, no injuries were reported at the time of reporting, and parliament itself had been closed for the holidays.

Meanwhile, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, parliament speaker cautioned against speculation that it was a deliberate attack on South Africa’s seat of democracy.

According to Patricia de Lille, the minister of public works and infrastructure, “The fire is currently in the National Assembly chambers.

“This is a very sad day for democracy, for parliament is the home of our democracy.

“We have not been able to contain the fire in the National Assembly. “Part of the ceilings has collapsed.”

The South African historic parliament which now serves as offices was built in 1884 and originally housed the country’s parliament. It spread to the newer National Assembly building, built in the 1980s, which is where the Parliament now sits.

While the Old Assembly building was closely connected to South Africa’s colonial and apartheid history, the National Assembly building was where former President F.W. de Klerk stood up at the opening of Parliament in 1990 and announced he was freeing Nelson Mandela from prison and effectively ending the apartheid system of white minority rule. The news electrified the country and reverberated around the world.