Business & Finance

The Pretoria versus Cape Town Parliament Debate

During the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on 09 February, President Jacob Zuma set in motion a snowball discourse on the moving of the Parliament to Pretoria away from Cape Town, to reduce costs. The suggested cost for moving Parliament is reported to be R7 billion.  By Unathi Sonwabile Henama.

As expected there was more drama at SONA 2017 than we had bargained for, as the national ego was bruised by a spectacle of unfortunates. What happens in Parliament remains a deep sense of embarrassment for the nation which was once a beacon of hope for Africa, now we are a big fat continental joke.

Besides the unfortunates of the day, our eyes must be firmly set on tourism and its developmental potential for the Western Cape. The SONA is always tourism big business for Cape Town. The City of Cape Town which was is the seat of the two houses of Parliament remains the legislative capital city of South Africa. This was an arrangement during the time of the Boer republics, which ensured that Pretoria remains the seat of government whilst Bloemfontein was the judicial capital city, housing the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The adoption of the Constitution, which prescribed that we become a constitutional democracy meant that a constitutional court became the apex court, which would be an arbitrator of disputes, in addition to becoming the official Rottweiler of the democratic project. The Constitutional Court became the highest court, whilst the Supreme Court of Appeal continued a steady stream of judicial tourists that sought to use the court in Bloemfontein.

Getting back to the moving of Parliament issue, Ministers because they must report on progress in Parliament, must have double residential dwellings, two cars, and support staff in Cape Town and Pretoria. Exclusively, all government departments have their headquarters in Pretoria, which means a parliament in Pretoria would mean fewer logistical challenges. The fact that the majority of State Owned Enterprises (S0Es) are headquartered in Pretoria, made the proposed move to Pretoria politically and economically prudent.

In addition, Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality is not just the largest municipality in the world, it houses the second largest concentration of embassies and consulates after Washington DC.

A contestation of ideologies ensued after SONA about the relocation of Parliament, then on August 03, 2016 everything changed. Today Tshwane is governed by a coalition between the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters, and the Democratic Alliance provided the Mayor after the Local Government Elections. Today, both the cities that house the seat of government (Pretoria) and the seat of the legislature (Cape Town) are governed by the Democratic Alliance, which is the official opposition.

I am of the view that Cape Town would not be in much disagreement about the relocation of Parliament based on the shifting reality of politics. The loss of Parliament would be easily mitigated by tourism as Cape Town is practically a tourism city. The economic value chain of the Western Cape has benefitted immensely from tourism, ranging from the wine routes around Stellenbosch to the film studios outside Cape Town that have recreated South Africa’s own Hollywood.

The Western Cape is also a beneficiary of skilled inward migration, from entrepreneurs to cash-rich retirees that are snapping up properties in rural towns around Cape Town, transforming their economies. I call this the Great Trek boomerang.

The Western Cape defined its future by initiating the Cape Town Air Access Initiative that has ensured that Cape Town International Airport welcomed its 10th million passenger in a calendar year. The result was that there were 100 000 additional jobs created around Cape Town, and the indirect impact may be greater. Additional direct flights have been added to Cape Town, and this has continued to ensure that the Western Cape creates jobs, whilst the country has a stubborn 27% unemployment rate.

South Africa as a long haul destination remains challenged by air access which limits the developmental ability and potential of tourism. The lives of the majority of our citizens remain closely friendly to poverty, unemployment and inequality, a reality that remains an unfreedom.

Capetonians have openly embraced Airbnb, reflecting in the largest number of Airbnb listing on the African continent which has increased tourism arrivals and expenditure in the Western Cape. Tourism remains the ‘’new gold’’ that is the engine of growth in our limping economy. The Western Cape must be congratulated for its progress in advancing the tourism project to achieve the National Tourism Sector Strategy’s objective of being in the top 20 destinations by the year 2020.

About the author: Unathi Sonwabile Henama teaches tourism at the Tshwane University of Technology.

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