The completion date of Parliament’s restoration has been pushed back again.

Taxpayers will fork out nearly an extra R1 billion to repair Parliament’s buildings after they were severely damaged by a fire two years ago.

The Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament on Friday was provided with an update on the restoration of the National Assembly and parts of the Old Assembly, which was gutted by the 2 January 2022 blaze.

Parliament restoration

In the meeting, special projects manager Simon Mashigo told MPs that the repair and refurbishment of Parliament, which was not insured, was now expected to cost at least R3 billion.

R2 billion was initially budgeted, but has now increased by more than R900 million as a result of the modernisation of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure.

“We moved from an appropriation of R2 billion, but from that appropriation, it was understood that it was only a high level estimate which was not supported by any scope or details.

“We also understood that as we get into planning and getting to the detailed design, more definitive scope would come out including the costs.

“So our revised costing comes to R2.1 billion which is the builders or main work in terms of the work we need to do as per the original scope we were given and that also has CCTV access control and electronics for compliance. But when we add the specialised audio, visual and broadcasting equipment, including the replacement of ICT equipment, it requires us to have an additional R943 million,” Mashigo said on Friday.

The committee heard about the installation of a solar plant in Parliament and that a request has been made for Parliament to be exempt from load shedding.

ALSO READ: The failure to rebuild parliament is ‘a concern’ – analyst

Mashigo confirmed that the National Assembly would be demolished at the end of April this year.

“We are going to demolish the core… that is the section that was badly affected by the fire and the envelope of the building will be retained so the façade will be protected.”

The committee also heard that the demolition of the Old Assembly will commence on 8 July 2024.

“The Old Assembly will be kept as original as possible. The key demolishing is going to be in the spine of the Old Assembly.”

Construction will begin in August 2024 and end in February 2026.

This means the completion date of Parliament’s restoration has been pushed back once again. It was initially expected to be completed in November 2025.

Watch the meeting below:

Secretary to Parliament Xolile George indicated that the emergence of unavoidable new building details as the project progresses, consultation with stakeholders – including the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) – and the withdrawal of the service provider appointed to deliver phase 1 of the rubble removal, which resulted in the tender process having to be restarted, caused the delays.

“All of those things are beyond our control and can only be determined out of detailed assessments, which is normal in any planned process and construction work,” George told the committee.

On the budget, George said: “We were consistent to say this is the amount allocated [and] was in no way saying this is the total amount to rebuild Parliament.

“So indeed the amount may go up, but we have no crystal ball to say will it be R2 billion, R2.5 billion or R3 billion [to restore Parliament]… all of those figures will come out of the detailed design stage wherein we are currently sitting at 41%.”

Parliament fire

An independent internal report found that the fire could have been prevented.

The investigation concluded that the blaze could have been avoided if the minimum standards, such as a high perimeter fence, had been adhered to.

The 1.3 metres fence allowed Zandile Mafe, who was arrested in connection with the fire, to gain “unauthorised access and to enjoy unrestricted movement within Parliament without being detected for a number of hours beyond a day”.

Parliament was informed by the South African Police Service (Saps) in 2022 that the fence should have been upgraded to 3 metres as part of security improvements.

At least nine parliamentary officials were suspended last November after the investigations.

NOW READ: Why parliament burnt: Inside report on how fire could’ve been prevented


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