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Parliament fire: SAPS tell MPs of security lapses, lack of upgrades and poor cameras

Fire Department officials inside the Parliament precinct during the fire: Picture: Phando Jikelo African News Agency (ANA)

Fire Department officials inside the Parliament precinct during the fire: Picture: Phando Jikelo African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jan 28, 2022

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Cape Town - The police have confirmed to MPs that for more than nine years, Parliament has failed to upgrade its security – despite a report warning of this in 2013.

The SAPS also said Parliament’s Protection Services were on compulsory leave from December 15, when the fire broke out on January 2.

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Head of SAPS Protection and Security Services Lieutenant-General Sam Shitlabane said the perimeter fence of Parliament was 1.3 metres instead of 3m, which is the prescribed minimum standards.

In his report Shitlabane said the national commissioner of police wrote to the director-general of Public Works in 2013 “highlighting critical security concerns at Parliament.”

Three years later, there was a joint meeting of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster, to implement the upgrades at Parliament.

Shitlabane also told MPs that, since 2018, no action has been taken to ensure security and protection at the national legislature.

“Since the declaration of Parliament precinct complex as a national key point on January 12, 2018, the following has not been implemented: a joint planning committee, which is a coordinating structure established by the national key point owner, in consultation with the protecting authority, and this still needs to be established by Parliament,” said Shitlabane.

“The power outage, caused by Eskom, on December 21, 2021, resulted in the malfunctioning of the video wall for the entire duration prior to the Parliament fire incident. It is reported that, apparently, the generators ran out of diesel.

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“Members could only monitor movement from a small screen, due to the video wall not working. Currently, Parliament is operating two different types of cameras, of which inside is digital and outside the precinct is analogue. At the time of the incident, the Parliament Protection Services were on compulsory leave,” said Shitlabane.

Chief fire officer from the City of Cape Town Ian Schetlener said the sprinklers and fire alarms were not working.

He also said the fire escape doors were left open and this could have helped to spread the fire.

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Zandile Mafe was arrested after the fire broke out and he was recently released from Valkenberg mental hospital and sent to an ordinary prison, as directed by the Western Cape High Court.

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Political Bureau

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