Fire rips through South Africa’s Houses of Parliament in Cape Town


A “devastating”  fire swept through South Africa’s historic parliamentary complex in Cape Town on Sunday and destroyed the National Assembly, the main chamber.

The exact cause of the fire was unclear last night, but South African police have arrested a 51-year-old man in connection with the incident, who is due to appear in court on Tuesday. 

“The entire chamber where the members sit… has burned down,” Moloto Mothapo, a spokesman for the National Assembly, told reporters.

Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African president who lives in Cape Town when off duty, said on Sunday: ”This is devastating news, a devastating event, particularly since we just gave ‘The Arch’ [Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu] the best send off.”

Parliament is next door to St George’s Cathedral where the requiem mass for Mr Tutu was held on Saturday after his death, aged 90, on Boxing Day.

“The Arch would have been devastated. This is a place he… supported and prayed for, and wanted to see [it] as a repository for the democracy he worked so hard for,” Mr Ramaphosa added.

He also said that he had been informed that the sprinkler system “did not work as it was supposed to.”

There are hundreds of historic documents and artworks in the parliamentary complex from when the British allowed the first legislature of the Cape Colony in 1835 and Queen Victoria allowed the Cape to form a parliament in 1853.

Plumes of thick black smoke rose high into the sky above parliament all day and into neighbouring streets, while firefighters arrived at the historic part of the city six minutes after they were called. 


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