Parliament fire shifts S.Africa state-of-the-nation to backup venue
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will next month deliver the annual state-of-the-nation address from an alternative venue in Cape Town after fire gutted the city’s National Assembly building, parliament announced Friday.
outh African President Cyril Ramaphosa will next month deliver the annual state-of-the-nation address from an alternative venue in Cape Town after fire gutted the city’s National Assembly building, parliament announced Friday.
City Hall, which will host the annual event bringing together the executive, the legislature and the judiciary on February 10, was where Nelson Mandela addressed crowds following his 1990 release from prison.
The flagship political gathering is traditionally held in the National Assembly chamber, but a fire that broke out in the Cape Town-based complex on Sunday badly damaged the building, making it unusable.
“The extensive damage has necessitated the institution to find an alternative venue off-site to host this important event in the parliamentary calendar and the country,” parliament said in a statement.
It said the Cape Town City Hall offered the infrastructure and capacity to host the flagship event.
“It is also a befitting place considering its historical significance which is embedded in the minds and hearts of South Africans,” it said.
When Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, spoke to the nation and euphoric crowds following more than 27 years in prison, Ramaphosa stood by his side, holding the microphone.
President Ramaphosa, who was 37 years old when Mandela was released, “will address the nation from the City Hall, 32 years since that historic occasion in 1990,” parliament said in the statement.
It took more two days to extinguish the blaze which tore through the wood-panelled assembly chamber where parliamentary debates are held.
A preliminary report by the city of Cape Town established that the “wall panelling and decor materials” compounded the risk of fire.
The report released on Friday also found that “sprinklers did not activate” and that they were last serviced in 2017, missing a February 2020 scheduled service.
The fire detection system appeared “faulty”, it said.
No casualties were reported in the fire, but the extensive damage has shaken the country.
A 49-year-old man, Zandile Christmas Mafe, appeared briefly in court Tuesday on charges of breaking into parliament, arson and intention to steal property, including laptops and documents. He is due back in court next week.