File picture: Denis Farrell

Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal legislature is under mounting pressure to explore the idea of a “parliamentary village” to cut the costs of accommodating MPLs in Pietermaritzburg hotels.

Currently MPLs check into hotels every time they are at the legislature for more than a day.

The Golden Horse Hotel, which the legislature often uses, has a standard rate of R1 500 per person per night during the week. The province has more than 80 MPLs, but only those living more than 200km from the city are allowed to stay in hotels at the legislature’s expense.

Legislature spokesman Leon Mbangwa could not say how many MPLs qualified for accommodation.

He said the legislature was considering incorporating a village in the new legislature expected to be built.

“The decision to accommodate MPLs in hotels is due to the fact that the KZN legislature, unlike other legislatures and Parliament, does not have a parliamentary village,” said Mbangwa.

However, Mbangwa said hotel accommodation could be cheaper than the proposed government village in the long run. There were strict measures to control expenditure; the government did not pay for alcohol, and breakfast was limited to R120 and dinner to R220.

“Using hotels and B&Bs is actually cost-effective as the legislature is not responsible for maintenance and rates. It also does not have to employ extra personnel for maintenance,” he said.

Recently, provincial Speaker Lydia Johnson said R6 million had been set aside for a feasibility study into the construction of a new legislature building.

Another legislature spokesman, Wonder Hlongwa, said the study would give direction on whether accommodation could be included.

“The study would look at many things, including costs, and whether the new legislature should be like the one in Ulundi,” said Hlongwa.

The Ulundi legislature building has luxury homes for MECs and MPLs and blocks of flats for administration staff.

National Freedom Party MPL Happy Khuzwayo said the hotel accommodation had led to the legislature overspending by R1.4m in the last financial year. She called on the Department of Public Works to at least buy a block of flats to accommodate MPLs.

“This month we lived at Golden Horse between August 5 and August 7 for general debate. We returned again between August 11 and August 16 and between August 18 and 20,” she said.

IFP MPL Imran Keeka said in a village, the government would not have to provide meals, as MPLs could cook for themselves.

“My view is that accommodation in the form of a block of flats should be provided,” he said.

The Mercury