Two investigations have found serious deficiencies in safety procedures in South Africa’s Parliament building that was seriously damaged by fire this week. Police are also looking into whether the attack on the Constitutional Court building was connected to the alleged arson.
The 138 year-old building has been handed back to the political authorities by the Cape Town Fire Brigade.
Parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothabo said more than 300 firefighters using 60 specialist pieces of equipment had displayed “unspeakable courage” in extinguishing the blaze on Sunday which reignited on Monday.
Cape Town Station Commander J.J. Williams produced a report of his own observations for Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula and Cape Town Mayor Gordon Hill Lewis.
Williams found the fire doors had been latched open allowing the free spread of flames throughout the building.
He also found that the sprinkler system had not been serviced and that some sprinklers had been turned off.
An independent audit in 2018 found Parliament did not meet occupational, health and safety standards.
OHSA Health and Safety Consultants found little had been done to protect the building in the event of the fire.
The consultants carried out a security, health and environment study in terms of the Occupational Health and Security Act and found that no approved safety policy was evident nor had any safety management system been identified.
Parliamentary authorities had not met deadlines to rectify this.
A 49-year-old man from Khyeletisha, Zandile Mafe has been charged with arson, theft and housebreaking in connection with the fire.
His case has been postponed until February 11.
On Wednesday, Paul Makaula, 36, was arrested after police fired on him when he broke a window and glass doors at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg.
Both this attack and the fire have been condemned by President Cyril Ramaphosa as assaults on the rule of law, a comment echoed by acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and Justice Minister Ronald Lamola.
Makaula appeared in the Hillbrow Magistrates’ Court on Friday. the court was told he was a parolee who was convicted for murder in 2010.
His case has been postponed until February 24 and he has not sought bail.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwana says authorities in Johannesburg and Cape Town are investigating whether there are any connections between the two attacks.