Moving Parliament to Pretoria may save the government R650m a year: professor
So says Professor Johan Marx of the School of Economic and Financial Sciences at Unisa. Dramatic changes in our way of life, seen as a result of the pandemic, is leading to “a new normal” and it was time to consider the risk and cost of continuing to shuttle members of Parliament and officials between Pretoria and Cape Town, as has been done for decades.
The risk of contracting the virus during travel and taking into account the loss of revenue meant South Africa should consider reducing the number of MPs, and the cost of running the legislature, he said.
Parliament would have to use part of the budget for infrastructure development to construct a suitable building in Pretoria - but this cost in the long term is substantially less than continuing to operate with Cape Town as the legislative capital and Pretoria as administrative.
“Moving Parliament to Pretoria could cost an estimated R7billion, but may save the government about R650million per year,” said Marx.
Borrowed funds should be spent wisely, and ideally on capital projects, and not on operating expenses such as parliamentary salaries and travel expenses, said Marx.
He proposed that the vacant land opposite the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) in Soutpansberg Road was ideally situated for the purpose of a new Parliament building.
“Not only will such a move reduce the risk of ministers and directors- general contracting illnesses such as Covid-19, but it will also result in significant cost savings and improved communication with the directors-general of the 42 central government departments.”
In 2018, a formal public bid process was launched and a project steering committee was tasked with investigating the matter. The idea was supported by former Tshwane mayor, Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa, who now heads the president’s investment infrastructure office.
Last year, Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi gave an update on the government’s proposed plans to relocate Parliament during a parliamentary Q&A session, He said the project was still a work-in-progress.
The project involves a comprehensive feasibility study report relating to the socio-economic impacts of leaving Parliament in Cape Town while offices are in Pretoria, versus relocating it.
Possible construction sites in Tshwane were identified, Nxesi said, but could not be confirmed until Parliament accommodation requirements had been signed off.
Other factors include the impact on parliamentary staff who are resident, and strong opposition from Cape Town and the Western Cape government to such a move.
Marx said recent developments required the matter be expedited, especially in terms of the new economy envisaged by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“Parliament may have to continue with virtual meetings over the short-term (2020). However, should construction commence by early 2021, the new facility could become a reality by late 2022.
“The work will benefit a struggling construction industry and assist in creating job opportunities,” he said.
Pretoria News Weekend