/ 17 August 2022

Bomb scare at parliament

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 South African Police Service mobilised its bomb disposal specialists after officers noticed a suspicious package left unattended outside parliament on Wednesday morning. 

It turned out the package belonged to a staff member at parliament and carried no explosives. 

Officials at the legislature have been on alert since a fire damaged the precinct in a suspected arson attack in January.

National police spokesperson Colonel Athlenda Mathe said that dogs from the K9 unit, as well as bomb technicians, had responded to the alert.

“A bomb sweep was conducted and no active explosive devices were recovered. Further investigations found that the bag belonged to an office bearer who is working at one of the offices on parliament premises,” Mathe said.

In a brief statement earlier, parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said no immediate danger was posed to the parliamentary community in the incident and there was no evacuation conducted, adding that police remained at the precinct to take “necessary precautionary measures”.

Security at the legislature came under scrutiny after it was set on fire on 2 January, leaving the national assembly and the old assembly buildings gutted.

A day after the fire, Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille confirmed that the surveillance cameras at parliament were in working order but appeared not to have been monitored by parliamentary security and the police at the time of the incident.

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) arrested 49-year-old Zandile Mafe at the parliamentary precinct. He faces six charges after the state withdrew a charge of destroying essential infrastructure and added a new one of terrorism under the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act. 

The other charges include housebreaking with intent to steal, theft, two counts of arson and one of being in the possession of explosives.

Mafe’s case had been scheduled for a pre-trial hearing at the Western Cape high court last Friday but the accused did not make an appearance. Judge Elize Steyn was told Mafe had been on a hunger strike for some time.

The next pre-trial hearing is set for 2 September.