The Department of Public Works (DPW) says that an analysis of possible sites for the construction of the multimillion-rand Pan-African Parliament (PAP) building has been completed and that the development will proceed on the original Midrand site, in Gauteng, despite the fact that an environmental group still has concerns about the impact of the development.
DPW special projects deputy director-general Mandla Mabuza reports that Headway Hill, opposite the Development Bank of Southern Africa’s head office, in Midrand, has been earmarked for the property development.
“We are busy preparing a Cabinet memorandum, which, besides other issues, will address the question of funding. Once Parliamentary endorsement is received, construction will proceed,” says Mabuza.
South Africa offered to construct a state- of-the-art fully equipped structure to house the PAP. The architectural design will, reportedly, reflect the rich talent and diversity of all the people of the continent.
But development was suspended in August 2009, when a group known as the Environment and Conservation Association (ECA) argued that the site chosen was on a wetland.
The ECA suggested that the property devel- opment be moved away from that site altogether and demanded that the property be restored to its original state.
ECA chairperson Nicole Barlow tells Engineering News that the association remains concerned and has referred this matter to its attorney for review.
“We applied to the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Buyelwa Sonjica, for condonation to appeal against the construction, based on the fact that it contravened the National Environment Management Act (Nema),” Barlow explains.
She argues that the request for condonation was granted and the ECA will be submitting its Promotion of Access to Information Act appli- cation to get access to the environmental-impact assessment (EIA) so that it can conclude its appeal.
She alleges that there are a number of serious irregularities associated with the environmental process conducted to obtain authorisation for the proposed construction of the PAP complex.
Barlow says these include, but are not limited to, the fact that there was no public participation conducted for the EIA process, which is a strict requirement under Nema, and no wetland study was conducted, even after the Gauteng Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment had requested that one be done.
“These contraventions make the reporting obligations database (ROD) illegal and under no circumstances can the DPW continue with construction while sitting with an illegal ROD.
“Until our appeal has been adjudicated and a decision reached by Sonjica, it would be a serious breach if the DPW were to continue with construction before we have exhausted all legal avenues open to us to rectify the illegal conduct of the department. The ECA will be left with no alternative but to approach the High Court for an interdict to stop them,” warns Barlow.
But Mabuza argues that the department is working with other State departments, including the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, to ensure that the development proceeds in a manner that is sensitive to the environment and incorporates mitigation safeguards.
“We can confirm that 95% of environmental mitigating factors have been instituted and we are busy finalising a Cabinet memorandum, which, besides other issues, will address the question of funding.”
He says the department will proceed with the construction of the PAP once authorisation has been received from Parliament.