‘A lot of work has been done,’ says Mapisa-Nqakula a year after Parliament fire
Parliament’s presiding officers will outline plans to rebuild the assembly buildings this week.
Parliament in Cape Town continues to burn on 3 January 2022 in Cape Town. Picture: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach
It’s been just over a year since a fire gutted parts of Parliament although repairs are yet to begin.
The 2 January blaze left the National Assembly and the Old Assembly wing severely damaged prompting Members of Parliament (MPs) to hold their sessions at the Cape Town City Hall.
Speaking to eNCA on Tuesday, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula noted that much progress has been made since the fire gutted the buildings after the National Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) expressed concern about delays in finalising the report into the fire.
“We have the Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management where on a regular basis it is expected that the presiding officers and the secretary of Parliament provide reports on what it is we are doing with regards to this particular issue of restoration.
“A lot of work has been done… if [this was not the case] we will not be even talking about the money that has been allocated by Finance Minister,” she said.
Last October, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana allocated R118 million to Parliament, which will be used to prepare for this year’s State of the Nation Address (Sona), Budget Speech and offices of MPs.
It was previously revealed that restoring Parliament would cost an estimated of R2.2 billion, including furnishings and IT systems.
R300 million would be needed to restore the Old Assembly building, while the National Assembly is expected to cost R1.9 billion to repair.
According to Mapisa-Nqakula, there no fixed timeframe on the restoration process.
“We agreed that everything will be done according to phases. The restoration of the Old Assembly building would take about 18 months and 42 months for the restoration of the National Assembly. These are estimations, but the cost will be [around] R2 billion,” the Speaker said on Tuesday.
Parliament’s spokesperson Moloto Mothapo has since indicated that an update on plans to rebuild the facility’s fire-damaged buildings will be provided this week.
“As the nation marks this first anniversary of the fire, the presiding officers of Parliament, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces [NCOP], will later this week share with the nation details of the rebuilding programme, the project timeframes, and other relevant information at a press conference,” Mothapo said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has called on government to find an alternative venue for Parliament.
The DA has argued that the Cape Town City Hall isn’t big enough to host all MPs.
“We of the view that this is wholly unacceptable,” DA’s chief whip Siviwe Gwarube told eNCA on Monday.
Gwarube questioned why Parliament yet to start with its own investigations into the fire, adding that the DA was considering legal options on whether to hold the institution accountable or not.
“You would think that an institution of this magnitude that has something as big as this that basically destroys the building itself, would be very quick to say look let’s find out exactly what happened,” she said.
National Assembly house chairperson for committees, Cedric Frolick previously revealed that hosting venues outside Parliament would cost almost R100,000 per meeting.
“A three-hour session for the morning can easily run between R60,000 and R90,000 per meeting and that is pre-Covid rates that I am talking about,” Frolick said at the time.
Cape Town fire report
The City of Cape Town’s Fire Department last year released a post-incident report into the fire.
The report stated that the sprinkler valve at the National Assembly was last serviced in 2017.
The City said the valve appeared to have been closed making it impossible to function during fire incidents.
The report further revealed that the fire doors were latched open which assisted in the spread of the fire.