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SANDF says no link between Waterkloof, Parliament fires

The entrance to Waterkloof Air Force Base where a fire broke out. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

The entrance to Waterkloof Air Force Base where a fire broke out. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jan 25, 2022


Pretoria - The SANDF has denied claims that the fire which broke out at the Waterkloof Air Force Base on Sunday night was somehow linked to the blaze which ravaged Parliament in Cape Town early this month.

The fire started at the bulk fuel storage facility at about 7pm, and firefighting teams from military bases in Waterkloof and Swartkops contained it within an hour, according to SANDF spokesperson Brigadier Andries Mahapa.

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The incident was depicted in a screenshot on social media showing leaping flames with huge dark plumes of smoke.

Reports began circulating, suggested the fire may have been caused by a leakage from a burst pump.

Speaking to the Pretoria News, Mahapa cautioned against making unfounded assumptions at this stage, saying investigations were underway.

He said a team of air force firefighters, the chief firefighter, and the Tshwane firefighters were expected to finish the investigation by the latest today.

“They are all doing the investigation jointly. Once that is done we will be able to speak with authority,” Mahapa said.

There were also rumours doing the rounds on social media that the fires in Parliament and Waterkloof were related.

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In a TV interview, Mahapa said: “Some are linking it to what happened in Parliament. Some are linking it to what happened at court (Constitutional Court).

“There is no link whatsoever.”

He shot down the possibility of foul play in the cause of the fire, saying that the air force base was manned by 24-hour security.

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“Everyone is monitored and so there is no way that there could be foul play,” Mahapa said.

Among those who were quick to link the fire at Waterkloof with the one in Parliament was ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba, who tweeted: “What on Earth is happening to our country, President Cyril Ramaphosa?

“Is this another unexplainable fire? Are we going to have another mentally-

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derailed person to be responsible? Please save our beloved country.”

By “mentally-derailed person”, Mashaba was referring to claims by the State that Zandile Mafe, the man arrested for allegedly starting the Parliament fire, was mentally unstable.

He was detained at Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital after the State successfully made a case application regarding his mental condition at a Cape Town Magistrate’s Court.

The judgment, however, was overturned by the Western Cape High Court, which ruled that Mafe must be discharged because the confinement was “unconstitutional and should not have happened”.

Former public protector, advocate Thuli Madonsela, enquired in a tweet if there was “someone or are some people trying to intimidate our democratic institutions?”

Madonsela said: “If so, who and why?” Someone else wrote: ”The most dangerous enemy is the one from within.

“They have easy access to all these institutions. Is this why the Waterkloof base is burning?”

In a media statement, Mahapa said: “The cause of the fire, the magnitude of the damage, and the cost of the damage to the fuel bulk depot will form part of the investigation that will interrogate all events and/or incidents that might have led to the fire breakout at the base. No structural damage was reported.”

However, he said it was possible some structural damage could be detected as the investigation was unfolding.

“Probably during the course of the day while the investigation is unfolding there might be in a position to see one or two (instances of structural damage) and do cost determination and so forth,” he said.

When the Pretoria News visited the base yesterday, the situation was calm and military personnel went about their daily duties.

Mahapa said the fire was extinguished and did not disrupt military operations at the base.

Pretoria News