The Freemasons Lodge in South Africa has rubbished claims that its properties across the world were being burned down, and that the fire which gutted the Parliament building in Cape Town was just one of many similar incidents involving the group.
The Freemasons’ Goede Hoop Lodge, also known as Masonic Hall, is situated next to Parliament and was not damaged by the fire which has left large parts of Parliament, including the National Assembly, in ashes.
The internet loves a good conspiracy, and shortly after the fire started this past weekend, the tinfoil hats went into overdrive.
One of the rumours which started swirling involves the organisation having sold the land on which Parliament is situated to government for £1 on condition that should Parliament move, the land would be sold back to the Freemasons for the same price.
Some suggested the fire was meant to lash out at the Masons, while others suggested a ploy to get the land back in their control.
The organisation, widely perceived as a secretive society, said in reality its link with Parliament was cut more than a 100 years ago.
Its secretary Jeff Edwards said contrary to public belief, his organisation no longer owns the Cape Town land on which Parliament is built, but are merely their neighbours.
This has spawned some conspiracy theories on social media sites, which range from the strange to the bizarre.
Edwards, however, said links between the Freemasons and the burning of buildings were little more than internet gossip-mongering.
“Someone is twisting the story here… that is rubbish. We are not setting anything on fire. The last fire incident was in Ireland, where we had a bit of fire and it was contained quickly. That was the only one,” he said.
According to Edwards, the Freemasons sold the land on which Parliament stands to the Cape government for 10 Shillings in the 1800s.
“In Cape Town, of course some of the land was owned by us. But we are just neighbours with the institution of Parliament. Anyone trying to link that incident with us is mischievous.”
The Freemasonry has five regions in South Africa, called Lodges, in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, Gauteng, and the Free State.
According to its website, the Masonic Hall was founded in the 1700s and has been described as “one of the most elegant Masonic buildings of all time.” It was built by an architect called Mr Thibault.
Membership to the organisation is for men aged 21 years and older “of all religions and backgrounds, who share a concern for human values and moral standards and a respect for the laws of society and the rights of individuals.”
“In a world often dictated by hate and segregation, membership of an organisation capable of uniting men of all religions, colours and even accents is more relevant than ever,” reads an excerpt on the website.
The Freemasons are a peace-loving people with a history dating back 300 years and thousands of members worldwide, said Edwards.