Cape Town has been the legislative capital since 1910, with Parliament meeting in the precinct running alongside the Company’s Gardens, while the executive – the President and his Cabinet and government departments – have been based in the administrative capital, Pretoria.
In February this year, in his annual state of the nation address, President Jacob Zuma said that as a cost-saving measure and for reasons of efficiency, serious consideration should be given to moving Parliament to Pretoria.
In response, Parliament has issued a tender for consultants to conduct a feasibility study to look at the socio-economic impact and the costs of two options. The first is to relocate Parliament to an undisclosed location in Pretoria, which would only be revealed to the successful tenderer, or to expand the current facilities in Cape Town.
At the tender briefing on 28 July 2016, parliamentary officials cited a previous study that had revealed shortcomings in the present facilities and the need for more space and accommodation to house the current 490 members of Parliament and 1400 staff. The presence of Parliament in the CBD has significant economic benefits for the city, especially the hotels, as many government officials come to attend debates and brief parliamentary committees.
In the past, when there have been suggestions that Parliament move north, vigorous campaigns have been mounted to lobby for keeping the status quo. Should the current process result in a move to Pretoria, alternative uses for the parliamentary precinct would need to be found. A museum, a hotel complex, a casino, affordable housing, a university campus or a mixed-use space – each would bring new possibilities to add to this part of Cape Town.