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S.African Parliament to move flagship program after fire

 
Cape Town, Jan 8 (IANS) The South African Parliament announced it will host its flagship program, the State of the Nation Address (SONA), at the historic City Hall of Cape Town, the legislative capital of the nation, after the recent fire incident at Parliament precinct.

The President every year calls a joint sitting of the National Assembly (NA), the lower house, and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), the upper house, to deliver SONA, reports Xinhua news agency.

The fire, which lasted more than 70 hours from Sunday, however, severely damaged the NA building and completely burned down the chamber, which was used to host the event, forcing Parliament to find an alternative venue.

The City Hall was considered a suitable venue for the event, scheduled on February 10, technically in terms of infrastructure and its capacity and due to its "historical significance", Parliament said in a statement.

The City Hall, built in 1905, was the first place where late President Nelson Mandela addressed the nation after his release from prison on February 11, 1990.

On May 9, 1994, Mandela was introduced to the South African people in the same balcony of the building after he was elected as the nation's first democratic President.

Parliament promised not to let its work derailed or disrupted.

The SONA is the only occasion that brings together the three arms of the state -- the legislature, the executive and the judiciary -- under one roof.

Firefighters completely withdrew from the parliamentary precinct on Thursday after monitoring the situation and combing the inside of buildings for potential flare-up.

The cause of the fire, which also caused extensive damage to the century-old Old Assembly building that houses the upper house, is still unknown, but a 49-year-old man "allegedly linked to setting parliament building alight" was arrested and appeared in court Tuesday.

The law enforcement agencies are currently investigating the source of the fire.

--IANS
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