Parliament negotiates R1.4bn precinct upgrade

Posted On Monday, 29 September 2014 10:40 Published by
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Parliament's new presiding officers want the legislature's shelved multimillion-rand expansion programme to be implemented with immediate effect.

Baleka Mbete

The plans were originally shelved because of an outcry over costs and after the government announced austerity measures. National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairwoman Thandi Modise now plan to meet Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene in November to discuss new offices, apartments, dining halls and chambers for MPs.

The "space utilisation project", which was estimated to cost at least R1.4-billion the last time it was discussed, in 2011, is aimed at giving parliament a major face lift that would include, among other things: A 1500-seater chamber with a banqueting hall to be exclusively used for joint sittings, and costing R487-million; R312-million for a 16000m² office tower, restaurant and apartment complex;

A pavilion building and visitors' centre that would cost R68-million; and R275-million for a three-level basement parking lot. Modise, who is spearheading the project, said parliament had run out of space for committee meetings and was wasting money on renting hotel venues. Modise said in the previous financial year the institution paid R900000 just to rent hotel venues for meetings that took a few hours.

She said the space project would also entail building apartments for MPs to live in the Cape Town city centre. Modise said busing in MPs from parliamentary villages across Cape Town was unworkable, costly and tedious. "It would be ideal for MPs to just walk to work, they would be able to go home at lunch, would be able to work till late, so we're looking at all of those things," she said.

Modise said the project would be implemented in the next five years, depending on discussions with Nene. She said moving parliament away from Cape Town had not been discussed. ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe last month called for parliament to be moved to Gauteng because security in the DA-controlled Western Cape was weak.

The DA said plans to expand parliament were inappropriate and out of touch with the government's austerity measures. DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said the DA would oppose the "extravagant new plans" which have yet to be presented to parliament's oversight authority, a body on which opposition parties and the presiding officers sit.

Treasury spokesman Jabulani Sikhakhane said parliament's request would need to be weighed against a constrained fiscal environment.

Last modified on Monday, 29 September 2014 13:57

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