Monday 3 January 2022

Coronavirus streets up in smoke - LVI

A conflagration in Africa

Fires are destructive and that’s just a given; however, I have many questions and for the many fires I have seen in Africa, there seems to be much to them than an unfortunate accident, especially in official buildings. There was a time I thought finance and accountancy departments in Nigerian public offices seemed to have rather more inflammable materials than any other place, one had to conclude that evidence was tinder seeking any opportunity to be reduced to cinder.

When we attended St. George’s Cathedral yesterday for the Sung Eucharist of the 2nd Sunday after Christmas, the priest prayed earnestly that the firefighters be able to take control of and quench a fire in one of the buildings of the South African parliament situated in Cape Town. [BBC News: South Africa parliament fire flares up again]

A prayer to quench

South Africa is a country of many capitals, the executive is in Pretoria, the legislature is in Cape Town, the highest office of the civil judiciary is in Bloemfontein and the Constitutional Court is in Johannesburg, the same city that is the commercial capital.

On leaving the church, we could see plumes of smoke that were supposedly from the extractor fans according to a politician, but the fire seemed to be out of control and even flared up again today. Meanwhile, someone has been arrested in connection with the incident for breaking in and possibly being an arsonist, but that is hardly the issue that concerns me.

Questions of fire-raising

You can only wonder why the fire took such hold on an important institutional building and the seat of democracy in this country.

For instance, how was there no intrusion detection system in service to alert anyone to unauthorised persons entering the parliament, especially through a window?

One would expect such a building to have closed-circuit television (CCTV) monitoring with recording observed by on-site security personnel who appear to have been caught napping.

A fire was started and there was no smoke detection alert system at the point when it started and then the sprinkler system was not working. The fire services were alerted by people who saw smoke coming out of the building.

Every link has failed

Now, one would expect the parliament building to have a facilities management office that ensures all the elements of security, safety, access, protection, detection, and avoidance were in place and it appears that the whole system of building management failed woefully or there has been some nefarious collusion activity that allowed a series of apparent coincidences to turn into a catastrophe.

I can only wonder what would come out of the investigation for I have a feeling that the arsonist was not acting alone, it all seems to be everything than fortuitous. A chance alignment of the stars for the perfect moment to destroy the parliament by fire? I think not. As for the rekindling of the same fire, after it was apparently put out, may I ask if the pandemic had put the firefighters out of practice?

Much as one wants to give this all the benefit of the doubt, there is a cynical feeling that there is more to this than meets the eye. Fires in Africa are another breed and this calls for a lot more eyes than would suggest an accident instead of a concertedly deliberate criminal enterprise.

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