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Discussions to relocate parliament from Cape Town are under way, and here’s how SA feels about it

08 June 2022 - 11:00
National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says the proposed move is being given additional consideration after mounting calls from politicians and political parties.
National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says the proposed move is being given additional consideration after mounting calls from politicians and political parties.
Image: Darren Stewart/ File photo

The proposal to move parliament from Cape Town is back on the table, with discussions under way in parliament . 

The speaker of the National Assembly Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula announced this during her budget speech on Tuesday. 

Mapisa-Nqakula said the proposed move was being given additional consideration after mounting calls from politicians and political parties.

Buildings in the parliamentary precinct were damaged by a fire at the start of the year and the old assembly and new assembly buildings are yet to be restored.

“The department of public works and infrastructure has appointed an independent company to assess the damage caused by the fire. Parliament will study the reports submitted after the assessment and a decision will be made on the best way forward,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.

The Good Hope Chamber is being used to house sittings of the National Assembly, but there remains a need to create additional space to accommodate full sittings for all MPs and joint sittings of parliament. 

“Parliament is considering options for alternative accommodation for sittings,” she said. 

“We will also receive a presentation of the feasibility study conducted in 2018 on the relocation of parliament from its premises in Cape Town. The report will be shared with MPs before a decision is taken on the future seat of parliament.”

Mapisa-Nqakula said the decision will not be taken by the public or parliamentarians.

Where is parliament proposed to relocate to? 

The EFF proposed parliament be relocated from Cape Town to the City of Tshwane. 

In an explanatory memorandum gazetted last week, EFF leader Julius Malema said parliament’s location creates several problems for MPs, politicians and “broader society” wanting to participate in parliament’s legislative and oversight functions.

“Parliament is located in the farthest province from most provinces, making it inaccessible to most South Africans, including MPs who spend a significant amount of time travelling to and from parliament,” Malema argued.

He said participation in parliamentary programmes is limited to individuals and institutions with financial resources and excludes those unable to travel to Cape Town.

“As a result, parliament and government spend a lot of money on travel and lodging for MPs, the executive, the government and state officials to keep colonial agreements that separate the administrative and legislative capitals in two cities by racist colonisers who excluded most black people and still do so today,” he said.

How do politicians feel about the proposal?

The EFF’s proposal was welcomed by transport minister Fikile Mbalula, who said relocating made sense.

“We have long taken a decision to relocate parliament to Gauteng, but not at the exploitation of dubious circumstances like burning down a building. Relocating makes financial and political sense,” Mbalula said.

However, it was also met with a backlash from some politicians, including DA federal chairperson Helen Zille and former MP Phumzile Van Damme, who questioned the financial, infrastructure, employment and constitutional implications of such a move.

What are readers saying?

TimesLIVE ran a poll asking readers what they thought about moving parliament.

Most (57%) said it was a “waste” and asked why the country would spend “billions rebuilding what we already have”.

22% queried the significance of such a move, while 21% said they were in favour.

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