Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea

Journalist


EFF’s renewed call for parliament removal a ‘massive’ waste of money, says expert

A 2019 study said the move would also mean uprooting parliamentary staff and their families.


The Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) renewed call to move South Africa’s parliament from Cape Town to Tshwane in Gauteng is, according to experts, a “massive” waste of money, as the country’s economy is still on its knees and struggling to recover.

While the party has argued this would help reduce costs and save money, Econometrix chief economist Azar Jammine said studies were inconclusive as to how much money would be saved by relocating parliament.

“In fact, more recently the economy growth rate in the Western Cape has started exceeding that of other provinces. Having parliament in Cape Town has been an important aspect of attracting business and tourism,” he said.

“And the province has proven to be run more efficiently than others, so it actually makes more sense now than before to maintain and keep parliament in a well-run area of the country.”

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While the recent parliament fire has renewed the focus on a possible move to Pretoria the whole idea has been suggested and knocked down for at least 50 years, according to Jammine.

In a private member’s Bill and invitation for comment on the draft Bill, EFF leader Julius Malema, noted parliament was located in the farthest corner of the country, making it inaccessible to the majority of South Africans, including members of parliament who spend a significant amount of time traveling to and from parliament.

“As a result, parliament and the government spend a lot of money on travel and lodging for members of parliament, the executive, and the government,” the Bill says.

Although the idea was supported by many departments and committees before, the joint standing committee on the financial management of parliament, which also gave its support to parliament’s move last year, noted the country was not financially ready for such a massive step and this was not a decision that could be rushed through.

Co-chair of the committee, Peace Mabe, said at the moment, there were many other issues to be considered, including where the money for the move would come from.

“If we move an institution like parliament from the Western Cape, irrespective of who is leading the Western Cape politically, we need to understand what this would mean for the people of the Western Cape,” she said.

“And whether economically it would be viable, how it is going to assist parliament to say is it also a central place where everybody can feel comfortable.”

She also said apart from the local provincial economy, other factors include the national economy, as the money to relocate parliament would probably come at taxpayers expense, using money was meant for housing, medical healthcare and service delivery.

The department of public works which supported the idea in 2019, has also backtracked, even though the former minister, Thulas Nxesi, in a response to a parliamentary Q&A session said the project was a work in progress.

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When asked where the department of public works was with the project, spokesperson Thami Mchunu said it was no longer a department matter but a parliament issue.

However, parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said parliament was not discussing any move at the moment.

The ANC first made the suggestion to move parliament to Pretoria in the 1990s, but it was knocked down then, as the cost would have been R237 million.

A revised breakdown of the costs published in 2016 saw the cost rise to an amount of R7 billion, but it also expected to save the country between R500 million and R750 million a year in the future.

A 2019 study said the move would also mean uprooting parliamentary staff and their families.

Deputy chief whip of the DA Siviwe Gwarube said relocation would mean the constitution’s provision which stated that the parliamentary seat is in Cape Town would have to change.