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‘I know a guy who can make a plan cheap, cheap’ — SA weighs in on report taxpayers could foot bill to repair parliament

A fire destroyed parts of parliament last week.
A fire destroyed parts of parliament last week.
Image: Maryam Adams

Social media users have flooded Twitter in reaction to a Sunday Times report that parliament is not insured against the devastating fire that engulfed it last week, with taxpayers likely to foot the bill for repairs and reconstruction.

Public works acting director-general Imtiaz Fazel told the paper the cost of insuring a R141bn state property portfolio of more than 82,000 buildings was unaffordable.

Fazel told National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and leaders of parties represented in parliament that, in terms of Treasury regulations on the management of losses and claims, “the state will bear its own damages and accident risks and be responsible for all claims and losses of state property”.

The department of public works will need to make an application for funds to fix the building through the annual budgeting process, but Fazel could not estimate the sum required.

“Our engineers and architects only gained access to the fire-damaged areas on Tuesday afternoon. This team of multidisciplinary experts and professionals is busy with an assessment of the damages,” he said.

Architect Jack van der Lecq, 82, designed the National Assembly building in the 1980s and supervised its construction. He told the paper it cost just under R32m to build at the time, but would take “hundreds of millions” and possibly up to R1bn to repair.

“From past experience, fire damage is huge. It penetrates everywhere. Not only the flames, but the heat, smoke and water damage can be extensive. There were tonnes of water poured into the building. I expect the damage to the internal surfaces to be extensive,” he said.

“It’s going to be hundreds of millions of rand because you have to take off every finishing, wall finishing, floor finishing and ceilings, and clean the building to its original raw state of bricks, mortar and concrete. If the roof is in serious trouble, it might have to come off.” 

Social media users weighed in on the report, with many saying SA does not have the budget to undergo the repairs.

Others joined calls by the EFF to move parliament to Gauteng.


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