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Parly’s R2-billion rebuild to leverage modern tech, green principles

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 08 Jan 2024
The rebuild of Parliament’s damaged buildings is set to commence in the first quarter of this year.
The rebuild of Parliament’s damaged buildings is set to commence in the first quarter of this year.

Parliament’s reconstruction presents an ‘unparalleled opportunity’ to design spaces tailored to a democratic Parliament's needs and to modernise its digital infrastructure.

So says spokesperson Moloto Mothapo, revealing that Parliament’s rebuild will get underway in the first quarter of this year and conclude at the end of 2025.

The announcement was made last week, to mark the second year since the 2022 fire that damaged the National Assembly building, including the National Assembly Chamber, hundreds of offices of MPs and staff, and parts of the historic Old Assembly Chamber.

It was revealed that Parliament secured over R2 billion for reconstruction of the damaged buildings from the National Treasury.

According to Mothapo, the previous Parliament buildings were designed to meet the specific, limited requirements of colonial and apartheid-era governance.

However, the new building is being developed to address the demands of a democratic era. This, he states, includes improving oversight, leveraging advancements in modern communication technology, fostering increased public participation, and facilitating more effective law-making processes.

“At this significant moment, we remind South Africans that the construction of the new Parliament building is not just an ordinary project – it is one of the most historic and crucial national endeavours.

“This undertaking transcends mere bricks and mortar. It is about shaping our future, realising the collective hopes and aspirations of every South African. This project belongs to each and every citizen. It is a shared venture and in that spirit, every South African will be afforded the opportunity to voice their opinions and contribute to the decision-making process regarding the design and functionality of their Parliament.”

Green Parliament

Detailing the events of the first year after the fire, Mothapo explains that Parliament initiated a business continuity management framework to minimise disruptions. This included securing alternative venues for joint sittings of the two Houses for the State of the Nation Address and National Assembly sessions, repairing the ICT system in the Chamber of the National Council of Provinces, and facilitating both virtual and physical committee sittings.

Last year, marking the first year of the fire, the presiding officers of Parliament emphasised the urgency of restoring Parliament.

“Early in 2023, Parliament and the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) formed a partnership for the rebuilding project. The agreement encompassed capacity development, technical support, and implementation of infrastructure projects. This involved refurbishing the Old Assembly and National Assembly buildings and the link building, clearing rubble for detailed assessments, and remodelling 155 offices in the 90 Plein Street building to accommodate MPs' physical return to the precincts.

“Significant progress has been made, particularly in creating the 155 offices for MPs and preparing the construction site. Both were the two major objectives for 2023 in terms of the rebuilding project roadmap. All tasks were completed within the set timelines.

“The reconfiguration of the fourth and fifth floors of the 90 Plein Street Building has provided alternative office space for MPs, offering appropriate workspace during restoration.”

According to him, the second stage design concepts, compliant with National Building Regulations, will incorporate green building principles.

“A green Parliament building would not only be an investment in environmental sustainability but also bring economic, health, and social benefits, aligning the values and practices of the institution with the pressing need for environmental sustainability.

“The heritage permit application process is underway, including stakeholder engagements. A pre-qualification process for contractors has begun to expedite procurement upon completion of detailed designs and documentation. These designs aim to promote open access to the Parliament precinct, foster professionalism, and teamwork, and highlight South Africa's rich cultural diversity.” 

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