President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday revealed that a person was being held by the police and was being questioned in connection with the devastating fire that has ravaged the Parliament buildings.
“I believe somebody is being held right now and they are being questioned,” said Ramaphosa.
The president made his remarks when he was at the Parliament buildings on Sunday afternoon.
“I am deeply saddened by the scenes all of us are witnessing today as flames engulf the home of our democracy in the precinct of Parliament,” said Ramaphosa.
The president said the fire at the Parliament buildings was a disastrous event that should “sadden all of us”.
“This is devastating, coming as it does a day after our send-off for Archbishop Desmond Tutu,” said Ramaphosa.
“Waking up to the destruction of Parliament is a terrible setback from what we were basking in yesterday.
“The Archbishop would have been devastated as well, as this is a place he prayed for, supported, and wanted to see as a repository of our democracy.”
Ramaphosa said the firefighters deserved a round of applause for “saving a national asset”.
He said if the firefighters had not responded in six minutes that they said they did the Parliament buildings would have been burnt to ashes.
Ramaphosa commended Western Cape Premier Alan Winde and his government for mobilising very quickly all the resources needed to tackle the fire.
The president said while it might seem the wheels were coming off everything certain things do work.
He also thanked ministers Patricia de Lille, Mondli Gungubele, and deputy minister, Zizi Kodwa, who have been on the scene since morning.
“The real praise and applause belongs to the fire officials and crews of the City of Cape Town who have done a great job,” said Ramaphosa.
“While they have worked to stop Parliament from being razed to ashes, it is very clear that this fire has devastated the parliamentary precinct and its contents and assets, including Parliament’s historical treasures of heritage.”
Ramaphosa said investigations were being carried out as to what caused the fire and how it moved from the old building to the National Assembly.
Ramaphosa said he had already been in touch with Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula who was driving from the Eastern Cape.
The president said Parliament and the security agencies of government were looking into the cause of this incident and “we must allow” this investigation to continue.
“While these investigations continue, I believe we are united as a nation in our sadness at this destruction of the home of our democracy,” said Ramaphosa.
“I have recently requested the Speaker to convene a Joint Sitting of Parliament for the State of the Nation Address on Thursday, 10 February 2022.
“In the wake of this devastating occurrence, we will continue to consult on what we can do to ensure continuity in the functioning of Parliament as the critical institution in our democratic infrastructure.”