DA slams R387m plan to expand parliament as 'luxury'

Waghied Misbach

Waghied Misbach

The plan by the speaker of the national assembly Baleka Mbete and other officials to spend R387million of taxpayers' money to build new banqueting halls, executive suites and a new 500-seater debating chamber has been slammed as a "luxury South Africa cannot afford".

The DA's chief whip Ian Davidson said yesterday the money earmarked for the parliamentary extension could be better used to build homes and fight crime.

He also accused the speaker and other top officials in parliament of not being open about the process involved.

Parliament's spokesman Luzuko Jacobs could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"The final cost is not yet known because no budget exists for this project. However, architects have been appointed, land has been bought, conceptual designs have been completed and detailed planning has commenced," said Davidson.

The plan is to build a new debating chamber with 500 seats for members and 1500 seats for the public. Davidson said answers from Mbete in August outlined some of the reasons for the extension.

These included the national assembly chamber having become too small for joint sittings, and parliament and the presidency not having suitable banqueting facilities.

Suites for the president and deputy president did not have ablution facilities and the speaker's suite was too small and impractical for her current requirements.

Davidson said parliament's staff had grown in the past few years, but there was no need for this scale of development.

He said one of the architects in the process was the company of Luyanda Mpahlwa, the brother of Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa.

However, he added that he could not find any evidence of "improper influence" in the process.