South Africa parliament: Man arrested over massive fire

A man has been arrested after a large fire severely damaged the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa.

The suspect, who is not a parliamentary employee, will appear in court on Tuesday, facing charges of arson, housebreaking and theft, police said.

Firefighters worked for hours to extinguish the blaze.

President Cyril Ramaphosa called it a “terrible and devastating event”, as he vowed parliament’s work would continue.

Footage from the scene on Sunday showed a plume of black smoke filling the sky, with huge flames coming out from the roof of the building.

Officials say the fire started on the third floor offices and quickly spread to the National Assembly (the parliament’s lower house) chamber.

The parliament is not currently in session because of the holidays, and no one was injured.

Police say the suspect, who reportedly entered the building through a back window, is expected to be charged under the National Key Points Act, which protects sites of strategic importance.

It appears that private security used by the parliament in addition to police were not being paid overtime and were not on duty, Jean-Pierre Smith, a member of the Cape Town mayoral committee for safety and security said.

Parliament said some offices had been “severely gutted”, and confirmed “significant damage” to the New Assembly Wing of the building, which includes the National Assembly chamber where lawmakers sit.


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