South African parliament. Picture: GCIS
South African parliament. Picture: GCIS

The government is still considering the feasibility of relocating parliament from Cape Town to Tshwane and possible sites in the administrative capital have been identified.

The debate over moving parliament has been raised many times since the first democratic election in 1994.

SA has three main capital cities — Tshwane as the administrative capital; Cape Town as the legislative capital; and Bloemfontein  as the judicial capital.

Those in favour of moving parliament to Tshwane argue that huge savings can be made if the national legislature is moved as officials and cabinet ministers’ travel costs would be slashed as well as hotel costs for officials attending meetings in parliament.

Some observers contend that the cost of moving parliament from Cape Town to Tshwane would be astronomical with new buildings and parliamentary villages having to be constructed.

According to public works minister Thulas Nxesi, possible construction sites in Tshwane have been identified, but cannot be confirmed until such time as parliamentary accommodation requirements have been signed off by the secretary to the legislature.

“For this to happen, parliament must give guidance and take the decision to move the parliamentary precinct away from Cape Town and also legally pronounce Tshwane as the seat of parliament, by way of proposing a constitutional amendment on Tshwane/Pretoria as the new legislative capital of the Republic of SA,” Nxesi said in a written reply to a question from the EFF in parliament, which was published on Wednesday.  

He said parliament’s decision will be informed by a comprehensive feasibility study.

Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary for the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac), has previously stated that instead of relocating parliament, more use could be made of technology with, for example, conferencing being used to reduce the frequency with which officials travel between the two capitals, and the size of departmental delegations visiting parliament being drastically reduced.

Frequently, the delegations attending parliamentary committees vastly outnumber the number of MPs on the committees. Often many of them do not even speak.

The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry has previously stated that the proposed move could harm the economy of the Western Cape.

Nxesi pointed out in his written reply that, ultimately, parliament will make the final decision following the conclusion of the feasibility study. It’s unclear when the study will be finalised.

“The project to relocate or move parliament from its current seat in Cape Town is primarily the responsibility of parliament, with the department of public works playing a supporting role,” said Nxesi.

He added that various engagements have taken place with parliament over a number of years. “Interdepartmental task-team and director-general forum meetings were held in February 2016 during which key items and actions were highlighted. A project steering committee consisting of the senior management of parliament and the department of public works was established.”

phakathib@businesslive.co.za