Today marks exactly one year since the break out of the fire that gutted the National Assembly building, including the Chamber where plenary sittings of the House are held, as well as some parts of the Old Assembly building. For almost three days, the fire tore through the 5 floors of the Assembly building and the adjacent Old Assembly Wing, collapsing the roof and destroying hundreds of offices which housed Members of Parliament and staff and their contents.
The accident imposed a collective national trauma that will be etched in the minds of South Africans for many years. Parliament was encouraged by acts of patriotism from various sectors of society during the distressing period, which included volunteerism, offers of support, and messages of solidarity from sister parliaments and other institutions locally and internationally.
Equally worth remembering was the swiftness with which several government institutions, both at provincial and national levels, reacted to the incident with assistance and support. We remain indebted to the extraordinary and selfless efforts of the members of the Fire and Rescue Service Department for their prompt response to the fire, which arrested the fire from storming through other parts of the building and causing even greater damage.
With this fire crisis, our collective resilience, not only as this crucial arm of the state but as a nation, was highly tested. Working together with the people of South Africa, we navigated through the unimaginable, forged ahead and managed to fulfil our obligations to the nation under the Constitution.
As the nation marks this first anniversary of the fire, the Presiding Officers of Parliament, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, will later this week share with the nation details of the rebuilding programme, the project timeframes, and other relevant information at a press conference.
As the Presiding Officers stressed in their New Year’s message, the real work of restoring Parliament will intensify this year.
The details of this press conference will be announced in a few days.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: The Parliament.