Parliament has confirmed that the roof fire flare-up which firefighters have been battling for two days has been contained.
“It is with a great sense of relief that Parliament confirms the containment of the fire flare up at the roof of the National Assembly (NA) on Monday, and there has not been any further fire incident,” said the house in a statement.
The past 24 hours have been critical, with firefighters closely monitoring and combing through the scene.
The fire was contained at midnight on Tuesday after flaring up again in the afternoon.
A reduced number of firefighters remained on-site to conduct a thorough assessment and to establish the extent of the damage caused.
“Since Sunday, there have been 300 firefighters working shifts and over 60 fire engine vehicles,” said Parliament.
“One fire engine remains at the scene currently, with five crew members working throughout all the floors, ensuring no flare-ups.”
Firefighters are expected to assess the situation on Wednesday afternoon to see if the building is safe to be handed over to the South African Police Services.
Parliament’s presiding officers, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Amos Masondo applauded firefighters who fought to bring the fire at the Parliamentary precinct under control.
“The extent of the damage in the National Assembly (NA) is severe. The Presiding Officers confirm that efforts to save the Mace were successful yesterday after two days of the fire,” said Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo.
” It has been retrieved from its safe storage without any damage.”
The Mace is an important symbol that signifies the authority and sitting of the NA. It is carried into the Chamber by the Serjeant-at-Arms and announces the arrival of the Speaker, also signalling that the house is formally in session.
“The NA Speaker remains grateful for saving the Mace as its recreation could be difficult,” said Mothapo.
Mothapo confirmed that there were no damages at the museum and that artworks and heritage objects, such as the Keiskamma tapestry on the ground floor of the Old Assembly Building were saved.
The Keiskamma Tapestry is a symbol of the South African story. Its intricate beadwork, skins and embroidery tell a story from the perspective of ordinary people.
It is 112 metres long and 70 metres high. Women from the Keiskamma Art Project, a community initiative and non-profit organisation in Hamburg, on the banks of the Keiskamma River in the Ngqushwa region of the Eastern Cape, made this artwork.
Parliament’s presiding officers have also confirmed that the State of the Nation Address, Budget Speech, and other programmes would proceed as planned.
Parliament will share further details about where and how these events will occur.
(Compiled by Narissa Subramoney)