Parliament told historical fabric destroyed in parliament fire cannot be restored as Hawks finalise probe

The fire at parliament. File photo.
The fire at parliament. File photo.
Image: Moloto Mothapo via Twitter

National head of the Hawks Lt-Gen Godfrey Lebeya said once the outstanding investigations into the fire in parliament in Cape Town earlier this year are received, the case will be transferred to the Cape Town high court for trial.

Paliament's joint standing committee on financial management, the SA Police Service, the department of public works and infrastructure and the SA heritage resources agency were briefed on progress made in respect of the investigation into the January 2 fire and the restoration project.

Lebeya said the outstanding investigations include the final fire investigation report from the SAPS fire investigator and his photo album, the final report of the cyber expert, relating to the video downloads at parliament and the final damage report from the department of public works and infrastructure.

“Information on Mr [Zandile] Mafe’s side of the story was received and will form part of the evidence in court. Another commissioned officer, not associated with DPCI, also recorded a confession, which will be the subject of evidence in court. More than 30 hours of video footage, which will speak to itself will also be part of the evidence,” he said.

Mafe was arrested in connection with the torching of parliament.

Maj-Gen Dawie Rabie said an action plan was being finalised in terms of internal shortcomings identified.

“The internal investigation into compliance to the administrative, procedural and regulatory requirements, roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders from SAPS by the division protection and security services was concluded on February 28. The disciplinary investigations were concluded and the hearings of the three Protection and Security Services (PPS) members are in process,” he said.

Lt-Gen Samson Shitlabane said the three members are being charged with negligence in terms of duties.

Rabie said investigations in regard to the inquiry into the security breach at Tuynhuis had been concluded.

He said three main NDPWI projects are currently in process which include the maintenance contract of current security systems, enhanced perimeter barrier and five upgraded entrances at the parliamentary precinct and new main security control room/CCTV cameras.

The National Treasury has given the NDPWI permission to go ahead with the projects.

Christo Beukes, the programme manager who works for the Coega Development Corporation, which has been appointed by the public works and infrastructure department to assess the fire damage and develop a renovation plan, said a preliminary report was issued on February 23 but is incomplete due to water issues in the lower basement of New Assembly.

He said the assessment was completed after water extraction on April 7 and the revised report issued on April 14.

“No material changes from the preliminary report with pronouncements and recommendations unchanged. Report taken under final review with comments effected and final report revision NO 2 issued on May 5 and in the process of being signed off,” he said.

Beukes said CDC teams completed all physical assessments after the Easter weekend but had to return for follow-up assessments in specific disciplines (heritage, electrical and mechanical services).

The CDC phase 2 report would provide indicative timelines for the planning and construction stages for the restoration/rehabilitation works for each building.

He said the duration would be informed by the full extent of construction works required, construction methodologies and complexities and implementation processes for the restorative works for earliest construction commencement on the damaged buildings subject to parliament approval.

Ben Mwasinga, built environment unit manager at the SA Heritage Resources Agency, said the fire has had a devastating effect on the national estate of SA.

“Apart from the political history, the buildings have an exceptional architectural design which compares to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The structural damage to the buildings is extensive with the entire roof of the Old Assembly destroyed and the wooden beams that support the structure of the new assembly have been severely affected,” he said.

Mwasinga said the material loss of the destroyed historical fabric cannot be replaced, despite restoration efforts.

He said SAHRA recommends that the national department of public works appoint a suitably qualified heritage consultant that will advise on the impact of proposed actions during the restoration process as well as liaise with SAHRA, and make their applications on SHRIS.

“SAHRA also further recommends that a heritage assessment be conducted as soon as possible to determine which actions would be least impactful to the remaining historical fabric of parliament, which portions of the building are still salvageable and to advise on possible actions to retain the remaining significant material on site,” he said.


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