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Pretoria - Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa believes the seat of the national legislature, like the name of the capital city, should be a matter of public national debate.
He said he appreciated the clarity provided by the Presidency on Thursday that the government had no firm position on calls for Parliament to be moved from Cape Town to Pretoria as stated by Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane.
“We note that the issue of possibly relocating Parliament has come up several times since the late 1990s and recently, and reiterate that we as a city are not in a position to express a canvassed view about the location of Parliament.
“As the capital city we will indeed welcome the decision to open a public debate on the matter, within the context a dialogue what it means for social cohesion and national unity to be continued to be classified as having three ‘capital cities’. We believe that within our growth ambitions and guided by our principles espoused in the Tshwane Vision 2055, Tshwane can accommodate and will welcome a decision for the consolidation of a common national capital incorporating diplomatic capital, administrative, legislative and judicial capital elements,” said Ramokgopa on Thursday.
He said the city understood the context of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s pronouncement on Wednesday on the need for a review of the current CapeTown/Tshwane arrangement and appreciated that any rationalisation of national departments from Cape Town to Tshwane will have opportunities and implications for the city from a planning and development perspective.
Government spokeswoman Phumla Williams said on Thursday the terms of reference and the time frames would be discussed by members of President Jacob Zuma’s executive at a date still to be decided.
Williams, who is also acting head of the Government Communication and Information System, stressed that no firm decision had been taken on the matter yet.
“I think there will be proper announcement when the moment comes,” Williams said.
This came after Gordhan said in his Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement that Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe had been requested by his cabinet colleagues to consider the merits and demerits of the relocation.
Williams said she did not have figures for how much of taxpayers’ money would be saved if the National Assembly was to be relocated.
However, it is believed that billions of rand could be saved because ministers and government officials would no longer have to move between the two cities.
Currently, ministers have government-provided homes and cars in Cape Town and Pretoria.
They also spend exorbitant amounts on flights between the seat of government in Pretoria and the legislative capital in Cape Town.
Taxpayers also foot the bill for the accommodation, transport and other allowances for officials who commute between the two cities.
While Williams did not have the exact figures, she suggested that the current arrangement could be costing taxpayers a fortune.
Williams maintained that the decision on whether to relocate Parliament was the responsibility of the National Assembly itself.
The matter of possibly relocating Parliament to Gauteng is not new though.
In the 1990s there was a Parliament for Pretoria campaign which lobbied widely for the relocation of the country’s legislature.
It has come up several times since the new dispensation, but nothing came of it.
At one point there was a spirited campaign by some to relocate it to Midrand. T-shirts with the words “Midrand for Parliament” were printed and circulated. That, too, was not enough to sway the decision makers.
However, Theunis Botha, of the Christian Democratic Party, said the possible relocation was “incomprehensible”.
He said modern technology such as video conferencing was the answer.
“We agree that the cost of the present system is unaffordable, given the technology (such as Skype and video conferencing) that exists. One wonders whether those proposing the relocation to Pretoria have any concept of what costs will be involved in this move,” he said.