The Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management has given its support to parliament’s move from Cape Town in the Western Cape to Pretoria in Gauteng.
Co-chairperson of the committee, Dikeledi Mahlangu, said that although the committee is mindful of ‘certain onerous processes’ that still need to be followed before a move could take place, the committee is in full support of the idea.
“We share the same understanding with those Members of Parliament who hold a view that parliament should move from Cape Town to Pretoria, and we appreciate the fact that a commitment has been made on the side of the institution regarding this matter,” she said.
Mahlangu added that no further debate was needed on the issue, but that a progress report on the move should be provided on a regular basis.
The loss of Cape Town as South Africa’s legislative capital may once again be gaining ground, but it is not a new idea.
The ANC first made the suggestion to move parliament to Pretoria in the 1990s, but was met with strong opposition from the provincial ANC in the Western Cape, who campaigned against it.
At the time, the cost to move parliament to Pretoria would have been R237 million. Conversely, the cost to move the country’s administration to Cape Town would have been R23.5 billion.
A revised breakdown of the costs published in 2016 saw the costs to move parliament rise to an amount of R7 billion – but it was expected that this would save the country between R500 million and R750 million a year in the future.
A 2019 analysis showed that the move would also mean uprooting 1,400 parliamentary staff and their families, and would have a negative impact on Cape Town’s economy.
Speaker of the fifth parliament, Baleka Mbete, announced in her May 2018 budget speech that parliament had appointed a company to conduct a six-month socio-economic and impact study on the proposed move from Cape Town to Pretoria.
However, Mbete stated at the time that the process was anticipated to be onerous and that some work would have to be handed over to the sixth parliament.
The issue was again raised in 2021 as parliament’s operating environment continued to be impacted by significant budget cuts and Covid-19.
The institution met seven of its indicator targets in the quarter under review, which amounted to 87.5% achievement. It spent R510.3 million of its appropriated budget of R583.7 million, amounting to 87% performance.
It is believed that although the upfront costs of moving parliament will be high, the government will save long-term on the move as MPs and their associated housing and infrastructure will be focused in Gauteng.
Currently, MPs have to have accommodation, transport and security details in both cities, which costs the country millions every year.