/ 6 January 2022

Hawks gain access to parliament fire scene

Fire Broke Out Parliament Building In Cape Town, South Africa
Parliament building in Cape Town, South Africa on January 02, 2022. (Photo by Xabiso Mkhabela/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) will start looking into the cause of a fire that broke out in the parliamentary precinct on Sunday and was only contained on Wednesday. 

Access to the scene will help the Hawks establish what started the fire and its extent,   said spokesperson Thandi Mbambo.

The Hawks arrested a suspect, 49-year-old Khayelitsha resident Zandile Mafe, on the same day the fire broke out. He appeared in the Cape Town magistrate’s court on Tuesday on five charges, including two of arson. Mafe was in possession of explosives at the time of his arrest. 

Parliament confirmed in a statement that engineers from the department of public works and infrastructure — including structural, electrical and forensic experts — had been on site to determine whether the buildings were safe for the Hawks to enter.

Parliament’s presiding officers have thanked the Cape Town fire and rescue service department whose firefighters worked for 71 hours to contain the fire. 

More than 300 firefighters tackled the blaze. Fire teams remained on site until Wednesday evening to monitor the site for any flare-ups. One flared-up had occurred on Monday after the fire was contained. 

Parliament officials and Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis are exploring possible alternative venues for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address, which was to have taken place in the precinct on 10 February. They are considering the city’s municipal chambers and town hall, as well as the Cape Town International Convention Centre.