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S.Africa's lower house to continue sitting in Parliament precinct

Cape Town, Jan 11 (IANS) South African Parliament said its lower house, the National Assembly (NA), will host sittings in a much smaller chamber inside the precinct, with some lawmakers to participate nline, after the original chamber was burned down in last week's fire accident.

The fire, which lasted more than 70 hours from January 2, severely damaged the NA building in the legislative capital of Cape Town and completely burned down the NA chamber, reports Xinhua news agency.

It also caused extensive damage to the century-old Old Assembly building that houses the National Council of Provinces, the upper house.

A meeting, which brought together parliament leaders and political parties to discuss alternative venues for sittings of the 400-member house, decided the NA sittings to be held in the Good Hope Chamber within Parliament precinct, Parliament said in a statement.

Good Hope Chamber, which used to host legislative sittings between 1854 and 1885 in the colonial period, has a seating capacity of 170 persons but only permits 70 in a sitting under Covid-19 social distancing measures.

Parliament said it will continue NA sittings with a limited number of its members assembling physically and the rest joining through a virtual platform, a method it has been using since May 2020 due to Covid-19.

The work of repairing or rebuilding the NA will take longer, according to it.

Parliament's flagship program, the State of the Nation Address, will be held at the historic City Hall of Cape Town on February 10.