Narissa Subramoney
Copy rewriter
3 minute read
4 Jan 2022
4:49 pm

De Lille’s department under fire over Parliament blaze

Narissa Subramoney

Despite Public Works insisting that it had been up to date with maintenance, several MPs just weren't buying it.

Smoke billows out of the National Assembly building after the fire at Parliament on 2 January 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa. Picture: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach

Members of Parliament (MPs) are not buying into the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) report that all fire response systems were functioning and that maintenance at the National Assembly was up to date.

DPWI Minister Patricia de Lille together with the acting department director-general Imtiaz Fazel, and project manager Thembeka Kolele presented a progress report on repairs done after the March 2021 parliament fire on Tuesday.

16 March 2021 fire report

Kolele’s report shows that after the March fire, problems identified with the water supply and fire hydrants functionality were fixed.

The report also revealed steps taken to solve problems that arose after a devastating power outage that hit the city of Cape Town on 21 December 2021.

Video graphics cards from the CCTV systems, and parliament’s UPS system among other things were affected, but Kolele insisted the department had tended to all the damages.

“From the day of the outage, leading up until the fire incident on 2 January, the CCTV system was in working order,” said Kolele.

Fazel reiterated that all systems were fully functional and tested before the 2 January fire.

De Lille said the Hawks are now in possession of the CCTV footage which is part of the investigation into the fire.

“The building is now a crime scene and the police will have to take custody of the building when it is safe to enter,” said de Lille.

MP’s grill Public Works

But, it wasn’t an easy sell to all MP’s.

EFF MP Mathapelo Siwisa roasted the DPWI, saying there is a lack of consequence management in the department.

Siwisa said she couldn’t understand how the department could have conducted maintenance in February 2021 as part of pre-SONA requirements, and then fall victim to fire just one month later.

Siwisa went on to demand a more detailed report on the March fire.

“If the systems were working as described, the 2 January fire would not have been so devastating,” said Siwisa.

DA MP Samantha Graham-Mara said parliament’s fire panels needed to be inspected daily, as opposed to annually as presented in the DPWI’s report. She also questioned the veracity of the DPWI report and assurances that all maintenance was done after the March fire.

IFP MP Narend Singh said while it was good that CCTV cameras were working at the time of the fire, it appeared as though there were no ‘warm bodies’ monitoring those screens. Singh said the report before MPs showed this weekend’s fire had started in two different sections.

DA Deputy Chief Whip Siviwe Gwarube called on Parliamentary Protective Services to answer questions about security breaches.

She also brought up claims by Nehawu that Parliament guards were reduced for cost reasons. “The Speaker’s dismissal of Nehawu’s claims is conflicting,” said Gwarube.

Nehawu to work with Parliament

Meanwhile, National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula met with Nehawu over the union’s claims that security personnel were sacrificed because Parliament couldn’t afford to pay them over weekends and public holidays.

According to a joint statement by the house and Nehawu, a space will be created to thrash out issues of concern, and the public bickering between Mapisa-Nqakula and Nehawu will stop.

“Parties concurred that it was not helpful to the distressing fire situation at the precinct of Parliament. Further meetings in this regard will be scheduled,’ said the statement.

Nehawu’s concerns will be brought before the Presiding Officers with immediate effect.

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