Conflict over the capital business

With only four of the nine few provinces taking a clear decision on their legislative centres, acrimonious battles over South Atrica’s new provincial capitals are expected to come to a head next week.

Only the Free State, which opted for Bloemfontein and the Western Cape,which chose Cape Town, have been entirely conflict-free. Both cities were the capitals of the former provinces.and were respectively the national judicial and legislative capitals.

At national level, the signs are that Pretoria will become the seat of parliament, despite a keen but belated bid from Cape Town to retain its current status. At final decision is expected only later in the year. A four-member cabinet committee. headed by Constitutional Development Minister Roelf Meyer, was recently appointed to examine the future location of parliament. Other members of the committee are Minister of Transport Mac Maharaj, Minister of Public Works Jeff Radebe and Minister of Finance Derek Keys.

Informed sources this week said the fact that parliament would sit for most of the year — and not for six months, as in the past — might swing the balance in Pretoria’s favour. The executive needs to be close to the administration, which is based in Pretoria.

The Pretoria City Council has already identified seven possible sites for the new parliamentary building, which will cost in excess of R1.5-billion. Indications are that the conflicts over provincial capitals will be resolved before the end of the month to allow for effective government in the various regions.

The fiercest battles are being foughtin the PWV, the Eastern Transvaal, Natal and North-West. And although the Northern Transvaal has already decided on Pietersburg as capital, premier Ngoako Ramathlodi announced this week that the parliament buildings in Lebowakgomo, Giyani and Thohoyandou would be used on a rotation basis for sessions of the provincial legislature.

Economists have voiced severe reservations about plans in some provinces to duplicate the current national two-city model. Money spent in this way could be better used for development, they argue.

A final decision on the PWV capital, Pretoria and Johannesburg are in the running — will be made next Monday, when the provintial legislature reassembles to discuss a report by an ad hoc committee which received submissions from 20 cities this week.

The committee is chaired by PAC regional MP Benny Alexander. Although submissions were made by Boksburg, Germiston and Sandton, the only other strong contender was Midrand. However, the cost of erecting new parliamentary bulidings in Midrand is expected to be prohibitively high.

Johannesburg’s bid was supported by Sanlam Properties which motivated the creation of a loan stock company enabling black investors to participate in up to 50 percent of the project’s financing. Other submissions supporting Johannesburg came from the Metropolitan Chamber and the Black Sash.

The Central Johannesburg Partnership and SA Rail Commuter Corporation subsidiary Intersite also supported Johannesburg. They argued that the people of Soweto and other Rand townships would benefit financially from Johannesburg’s designation as capital. Pretoria was supported by the Pretoria Capital Initiative and the Transvaal Provincial Administration.

TPA director general Len Gekker told the committee his administration did not have the money to move this financial year. The necessary infrastructure was already established in Pretoria.

Advocate Tiego Moseneke, on behalf of the Pretoria Capital Initiative, argued that it would cost R2-bllllon to move the province’s 4 800 bureaucrats to another city. The committee is expected to finalise its report today.
* In kwaNatal a three way tussle is being fought between Ulundi, Pietermaritzburg and Durban. Deciding on a capital has the potential to become,one of the most bitter wrangles in the power struggle between the Inkatha Freedom Party and the ANC. The ANC is strongly opposed to Ulundi. This week ANC members of the provincial legislature’s executive committee boycotted a sitting of the committee, saying they were “physically unsafe” in the former kwaZulu capital ANC provincial cabinet minister S’bu Ndebele said it would not make sense to travel for six hours to attend a cabinet meeting inUlundi.

KwaNatal premier Dr Frank Mdlalose is known to favour a dual capital, with Ulundi as the legislative and Pietermaritzburg as the executive capital. However, IFP spokesman Ed Tillett said there were differences of opinion within the IFP on the issue. The IFP Youth Brigade regarded Pietermaritzburg as a symbol of colonial oppression”. Ulundi, in contrast, is seen as the site of great Zulu battles against the British and has an enormous emotional import. A decision would have to be reached soon, because the province “can’t start governing effectively if it is paralysed by squabbles about the capital”.

The Zululand Chamber of Commerce recently came out in support of Ulundi, arguing that the underdeveloped Tugela basin was ready for huge investment. Because of the Cinderella
status under the previous government, all previous development plans were frozen. Natal Agricultural Union president William Mullins, however, has rejected as ridiculous and extravagant” the suggestion that Ulundi, and not Pietermaritzburg, become the capital. The IFP has now said it would opt for a referendum if the issue is not resolved by the regional cabinet. This option is supported by Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

* Plans in the Eastern Transvaal to have two or even three capitals are under reconsideration after the costs of the project became clear. Eastern Transvaal premier Mathew Phosa announced last week that the province would have ddifferent executive and legislative capitals — Witbank and Nelspruit were mentioned. Secunda was proposed as seat for “one-stop offices of departments as part of the provinces plans to decentralise.

However, this week Phosa said if these plans proved to have a detrimental effect on the ANC’s reconstruction and development programme, it may be decided to have only one capital. Submissions were expected from Nelspruit and Witbank, but ultimately the decison ould be taken by the provincial legislature said Phosa.

* No final decision has yet been taken on the capital of the North-West province. Indications are that Mmabatho, former capital of Bophuthatswana, may retain its status, at least in part. The only other towns in the running are Klerksdorp and Rustenburg. Potchefstroom, where the inauguration ceremony of premier Popo Molefe was held last month, has fallen out of the race.

Businessmen say they have accepted that Mmabatho will become then administrative capital of the province. It has the necessary infrastructure — a remnant from Lucas Mangope’s regime — and will turn into a “ghost town” if the administration is moved away. However, Klerksdorp still hopes to become the legislative capital. A final decision was supposed to have been taken last Wednesday by the legislative assembly, but agreement could not be reached.

North- West MEC for media and broadcasting Riani deWet said meetings would be held next week in the Odi-Moretele and Vryburg areas to involve people at grassroots level in the process. “We don’t want to make the mistakes of other provinces by rushing in. Whatever the capital is,we will have to live with the decision for a long time.” She did not expect a final decision before the first week of July.

* Pietersburg was designated capital of the Northern Transvaal last month, but the province’s first legislative assembly meeting will take place in Lebowakgomo on Monday. Northern Transvaal premier Ngoako Ramathlodi said sessions would be held on a rotation basis in the previous capitals of the Lebowa, Venda and Gesankulu homelands until a new parliament building has been completed in Pietersburg. Members of the executive council will be accommodated in the official residences of the previous homeland governments for the duration of the session.

* In the Eastern Cape, where before the elections East London, Umtata, Port Elizabeth, King William’s Town and Bisho were jostling for the role of new regional capital, the debate has quietly faded away. Before the elections theANC named King William’s Town and nearby Bisho, with its infrastructure housing the Ciskei administration, as its choice. The then Transkei ruler Major- General Bantu Holomisa pushed for Umtata but in an apparent trade-off, the town is now set to house the headquarters of the Reconstruction and Development Programme.

The Eastern Cape’s regional parliament was convened in the legislative assembly building in Bisho and parliamentarians are being allocated offices and houses in the former homeland capital. It is still unclear if the capital will be called Bisho, King William’s Town or a combination of the two, although there is opposition to the name Bisho because of its association with the vilified former homeland.

* In the Northern Cape, Kimberley has been made the capital, despite a strong bid from Upington. Northern Cape premier Manne Dipico said there was basic consensus that Kimberley — which enjoys the necessary infrastructure — should remain the capital. The provincial legislature already had two sittings in Kimberley.

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