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ANC changes tune on use of Cape Town venues for parly work

The office of ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina issued a press statement on Wednesday afternoon which contradicted an earlier one which said the party would not take up the DA's offer of Cape Town facilities for parliamentary events and meetings. File photo.
The office of ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina issued a press statement on Wednesday afternoon which contradicted an earlier one which said the party would not take up the DA's offer of Cape Town facilities for parliamentary events and meetings. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander/Sunday Times

The ANC in parliament has made an about-turn, just hours after rejecting Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis's offer for parliament to use the city's facilities.

The office of ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina reissued a press statement on the party caucus's position after the recent fire that razed parts of the parliamentary precinct and on the use of Cape Town facilities for parliamentary events and meetings.

In contrast to the fiery statement issued on Wednesday morning, in which the party accused the DA-led city of a political ploy and of being "highly opportunistic" for offering city venues, it changed its tune in a statement issued after 5pm. This time it said all public facilities should be used to serve the interests of the people, no matter the government sphere.

All available public facilities should be utilised as and when available to carry out national duties. Such public facilities regardless of the sphere of their location remain state resources in the hands of the people and should be used to serve the interests of the people,” it said in the second statement.

Earlier on Wednesday, the ANC caucus claimed the offer by the DA-led city and province for the use of city venues to host next month's state of the nation address (Sona) was “highly opportunistic” and a political ploy by the DA. It called on parliament to instead explore other avenues.

“The ANC caucus has agreed that our focus as the ANC is to ensure that we wrestle out between those who are recommending the use of the facilities of the City of Cape Town (DA-led) and those who are pushing for the permanent relocation of parliament to Tshwane.

“Caucus noted the highly opportunistic manner camouflaged as an act of generosity on the part of the DA-led Western Cape government to lobby for hosting Sona as a political ploy and that other avenues must be explored,” it said.

The party's comments followed an announcement by Hill-Lewis on Sunday that he had been in contact with National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and offered to make the city's council chamber available for sittings of the National Assembly, as well as the use of the Grand Parade and the city hall for Sona.

Responding to the ANC's decision, Hill-Lewis said that the destruction of parliamentary structures was “a national tragedy that should bring us together”.

“We should all be willing to do our part to help parliament overcome this, and continue its vital work. In Cape Town we see this as part of our national duty, to help where we can. The offer of our facilities, without a hiring charge, was done in this spirit. And it is in that spirit that the offer still stands — we are ready and willing to help.

“The response of the ANC caucus in parliament is sad and, I think, misses an important opportunity to bring the country together. That is their choice. Our choice is to do what we can to help,” he said.

Mapisa-Nqakula is yet to announce a decision on Hill-Lewis's offer.

The ANC also changed its tune on the relocation of parliament to Tshwane. Earlier, it categorically stated there was no need for parliament to move to Tshwane.

Later, it said the old debate about parliament moving to Tshwane was a matter that has not yet been resolved in terms of the constitution and that it would be premature and wrong to jump on the bandwagon for cheap publicity.

At the moment, the issue is not a priority for the ANC parliamentary caucus,” it said.

In terms of the constitution, the seat of parliament is Cape Town, but an act of parliament enacted in accordance with section 76 (1) and 5 may determine that the seat of parliament is elsewhere.

Caucus spokesperson Nomfanelo Kota had not responded to requests for comment on the change of caucus positions at the time of publishing.

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