Since the parliament was damaged in a devastating fire 18 months ago, little progress has been made in rebuilding this national landmark.
Major damage was caused to the Old Council Hall and the building that houses the National Assembly when a large fire broke out at the parliamentary complex in Cape Town on 2 and 3 January last year. Several meeting rooms, committee rooms and nearly 500 offices were destroyed.
Siviwe Gwarube, DA chief whip, says they are now demanding answers from Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the speaker of the National Assembly, and the chairman of the joint standing committee on the financial management of parliament (JSCFMP) on the progress of the reconstruction project.
“According to the parliament’s own timeline, most of the clearing work of the rubble and debris from the burned down building should have already been completed on Monday,” says Gwarube.
“This is clearly not the case; it has already been a year and a half since the parliamentary complex burned down and no work has yet been done on the burned down buildings.
“This causes critical parts of the institution to be unusable; not only for members of parliament, but also for members of the public.
“Public access to parliament is a right contained in the Constitution and it is the key point of the work we do as public representatives.”
According to Gwarube, parliament delivered the last report on the project milestones in May this year.
“In order to complete the reconstruction project in two years – as planned – the reconstruction of the offices for MPs had to be completed by June and the removal of the debris and rubbish from the burnt buildings by Monday 31 July.
“It was simply not done. The offices are still being built and no efforts have been made to remove the debris and rubbish.”
Mapisa-Nqakula and Amos Masondo, chairman of the National Council of Provinces (NRP), must urgently provide a status update on the reconstruction project of the parliament, says Gwarube.
“It is clear that the deadlines that parliament set for itself and the implementation agent, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, have not been met.
“Now we want to know when the work will be done and how it will affect the budget – which was initially allocated – as well as the duration of the project.
“The rebuilding project is of great public interest and there is a need for effective public representation by members of parliament. If there are delays, we need transparency.
“The speaker of the National Assembly and the chairman of the NRP together with the parliamentary secretary must account for the delays and provide clarity on the status of the project,” says Gwarube.