Parliament’s R2 billion restoration project still on track

The restoration of buildings damaged by fire in the precinct last year was on track and would be completed in two years. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

The restoration of buildings damaged by fire in the precinct last year was on track and would be completed in two years. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Aug 1, 2023

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Secretary to Parliament, Xolile George, said the restoration of buildings damaged by fire in the precinct last year was on track and would be completed in two years.

“We are pleased where we are and at the same time we will not rest on our laurels. We want to remain committed to the timeline we communicated that by the end of November 2025 restoration must be completed and we will be committed to achieve just that,” George said when responding to questions during a media engagement with the Parliament Gallery Association.

His comments came a day after reports at the weekend that 18 months after the fire razed the Old and New Assembly buildings, rubble had still not been removed.

On Monday, DA chief whip Siviwe Gwarube said her party had written to Parliament to request a progress report on the rebuilding project of the burnt precinct.

Gwarube said the bulk work of clearing debris and rubble should have been completed by the end of July.

“This is clearly not the case as seemingly no work has been done to the burnt down buildings. “It has been 18 months since the parliamentary precinct was burnt down; rendering key parts of the institution unusable not only for the MPs but also restricted access to members of the public.

“Public access to Parliament is a right that is enshrined in the Constitution and key to the work that we do as public representatives,” she said.

Gwarube noted the last report was given in May, saying the construction of offices was still under way and no clearing of the rubble had taken place.

“Now we need to understand when the work will commence and how this will affect the budget that was initially allocated and the duration of the entire project,” Gwarube said.

George said they had started work around the restoration of Parliament and made a formidable case last year to be allocated resources to rebuild the national legislature.

“We have been able to secure an amount of about R2 billion to start restoration work on the damaged buildings.

“We received an allocation on October 27 last year and actual appropriation this year, that enabled us as at March to be able to appoint an implementation principal agent to take charge of restoration work.

“We appointed the Development Bank of Southern Africa to undertake this work,” he said.

George also said they were pleased with the progress since they started with the preparatory work on restoration.

Space has been identified at the 90 Plein Street building for offices of MPs.

“That work is continuing at pace and we are quite pleased we will be able to complete that work by the end of August to have 155 offices for members, which is much-needed for members to come on board and start their physical presence in a much more conducive environment.”

He also said they still needed to secure additional office space for MPs in the National Assembly as 284 offices were burnt last year and offices for NCOP MPs were now in full operation.

“We are currently in discussion with the Department of Public Works as the state landlord to yield additional floors of the office that we had at 90 Plein Street.

“We have identified offices from 6 to 14 floors.

“We think if we secure that space it will give us much-needed space to bring a number of officials back to the precinct and at the same time secure additional offices outstanding for members,” George said.

He noted the news report about the rubble not having been removed.

George said they had been providing reports to the forums in Parliament.

He confirmed that they had planned to start removing rubble in June and complete it in July.

However, they could proceed upon receiving detailed technical assessments by structural engineers.

There was also an issue of asset register for the damaged assets which required physical verification by the auditor-general and finding pathways to the damaged buildings.

George said they had to be careful to move with haste in ticking boxes without satisfying themselves with the condition of the buildings.

He also gave an update on the planned redesign of Parliament.

This would take into account the historical nature of the buildings and space constraints.

Cape Times

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