President Jacob Zuma has resurrected the thorny debate about whether Parliament should relocate to Pretoria, suggesting this would save the government travel, car and accommodation expenses.
Zuma told Parliament during his state of the nation address tonight that his executive had looked into the matter of having two capital cities and that the costs were too high to maintain.
The administrative capital was in Pretoria and the legislature was in Cape Town. This meant – particularly for the executive – that ministers must have two houses: one in Pretoria and another one in Cape Town.
“You must have two cars; one in Pretoria, one in Cape Town. You must have a number of officials travelling up and down and because they have got no infrastructure, they are using hotels. This is a matter to be considered on an urgent basis,” said Zuma, speaking off the cuff.
He described the matter of two capitals as “a big expenditure item”.
“We believe that the matter requires the attention of Parliament soon,” he said.
ANC MPs continuously shouted “siyaya ePitoli” (We are going to Pretoria) as Zuma spoke about the two capitals.
Other cost-cutting proposals that Zuma announced included curtailing overseas trips. He said that those requesting permission to go overseas would have to motivate strongly and prove the benefit to the country.
He said the sizes of delegations would be “greatly reduced and standardised”.
Restrictions on conferences, catering, entertainment and social functions would also be instituted and the budget vote dinners for stakeholders – hosted by government departments in Parliament after the delivery of budget speeches – would no longer take place.
Zuma said more measures and details on the cost cutting would be announced by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan when he delivered his budget vote speech on February 24.
He called on the executive management and boards of public agencies and state-owned companies to undertake similar measures.
“I also invite premiers of all nine provinces as well as mayors to join us as we begin eliminating wasteful expenditure within government.
“I trust that Parliament and the judiciary will also be persuaded to consider the implementation of similar measures,” he said.
The opposition DA immediately shot down Zuma’s suggestion of one capital city.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said it was “a complete red herring”.
“I mean the costs associated with it are magnificent. We need to look at it very carefully. I mean if a cost analysis is done, it will show that the cost of uprooting Parliament and replacing the buildings we have here will be astronomical.
“It’s just something we cannot afford at the moment,” said Steenhuisen.