Suspect Due in Court After Fire Ravages South African Parliament

South African authorities arrested a man after a massive fire severely damaged the Houses of Parliament in the city of Cape Town on Jan. 2.

“A man has been arrested inside the parliament. He’s still being interrogated. We have opened a criminal case,” Police Spokesperson Thandi Mbambo said, adding that the suspect will appear in court on Jan. 4.

The suspect faces charges of arson, housebreaking, and theft, police said.

Brigadier Nomthandazo Mbambo said the suspect is also expected to be charged under the National Key Points Act, which protects locations of strategic importance, BBC News reported.

According to officials, the fire began at 6 a.m. local time in the parliament complex’s oldest wing and quickly spread to newer parts, which are currently in use.

The parliament was not currently in session because of the holidays.

No injuries were reported.

President Cyril Ramphosa told reporters at the scene that the building’s sprinkler system had apparently failed.

Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille said that someone had closed one of the valves, “and so then there was no water to trigger that automatic sprinkler system coming on.”

De Lille added that surveillance footage confirmed that an individual was in the building from the early hours of the morning.

According to De Lille, she received a report that a standard maintenance fire drill conducted before the holidays showed that everything was working, including the sprinklers.

Jean-Pierre Smith, a member of the Cape Town mayoral committee for safety and security, said that the fire alarm only rang when firefighters were already at the scene.

De Lille told reporters that the case had been handed over to an elite police unit called the Hawks, which was responsible in investigating any attack on political institutions.

The investigation continues.

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