Dozens of firefighters were at the scene battling the blaze, which sent plumes of thick black smoke into the sky above parliament. There were currently no reports of injuries.
The fire started in the office area of the complex before spreading to the National Assembly chambers. Firefighters got to the scene after 6 a.m. and had some difficulties gaining access due to the building’s security features.
Hours later, the blaze was still not under control and firefighters were dealing with a partial roof collapse, said JP Smith, a Cape Town mayoral committee member responsible for safety and security.
“The roof of the building has collapsed, on the one side, and the fire has spread to the New Assembly, according to the officers. They’ve detected large cracks in the wall, which is of concern,” Smith told a news conference in front of parliament.
Smith also said the fire alarm system appeared not to have functioned properly, because firefighters were on the scene before the system sounded the alarm.
Public Works and Infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille told a news conference outside parliament that there were no reports of any injuries yet in Sunday’s fire.
“This is a very sad day for our democracy because parliament is the home of our democracy and parliament is also a strategic key point,” de Lille said.
Smith said Sunday’s blaze was more serious than another fire that broke out at parliament in March 2021. In the March incident, the fire broke out at the Old Assembly and no one was injured.