By Shinovene Immanuel | 19 May 2016

NAMIBIA’S new N$2,4 billion parliament, dubbed the Welwitschia, will include 400 offices, a chamber to accommodate 300 lawmakers and a gym that is part of a “wellness centre”.

The current parliament has 104 lawmakers. The Namibian has learnt from experts familiar with the project that the price tag of the planned parliamentary building more than tripled in less than two years from the initial N$700 million, to include more extravagant features to match the taste of the elected officials.

The experts, who cannot be named as some are not directly involved and others because they have not been authorised to speak to the media, said the price could easily be lowered if parliamentarians drop their extravagant demands.

The building, whose budget was approved recently, will be named The Welwitschia, after the flower−like plant found in the Namib Desert that is known for its long life of more than a thousand years. Wikipedia [the free Internet Encyclopedia] states: “It is called kharos or khurub in Nama, tweeblaarkanniedood in Afrikaans, nyanka in Damara, and onyanga in Herero. Informal sources commonly refer to the plant as a ‘living fossil’. Welwitschia mirabilis is endemic to the Namib desert within Namibia and Angola.”

The building, which will be situated behind the current parliament (Tinten Palast) in Windhoek, resembles the Welwitschia plant.

A document provided by government sources to The Namibian gives details of figures and other information about the new parliament.

Although there have been various designs of the proposed parliament building, only two of these – from 2013 and 2015 – were made available to The Namibian. Talks are ongoing between parliamentarians and the consultants working on the project, which may yet affect the costs and design.

The 2013 design covered mainly 200 offices, a chamber for 120 lawmakers from the National Assembly, and 150 seats planned for the media and the public, and it would have cost N$700m.

According to the sources, the initial design was made by former National Assembly (NA) speaker Theo−Ben Gurirab and his officials.
When consultants presented the plan to the parliamentarians, they demanded it should have a “Namibian look” saying the first plan resembled an ordinary block of apartments.

Parliamentarians wanted a revamped design, but this time, they also asked for more rooms and offices and other extras. These new demands led to the parliament building’s price tripling from N$700 million to N$2,4 billion. As a result, a new design was completed last year.

The Welwitschia design has features, such as 400 offices (an increase from 200), the size of the chamber will increase to accommodate 300 politicians instead of the initial 120. Seats for the public and the media increased from 150 to over 500.

The Welwitschia, which is designed to be “green−friendly”, is equipped with an amphitheatre, a “wellness centre” where some wanted a high−tech clinic and a restaurant.

Consultants on this project have been hard to get hold of. As a result, there are no specific details given.

Some politicians have claimed that the price went up because of the weakened South African rand and the fact that the new amount includes the combined houses of the National Council and National Assembly, but this seem to amount to half−truths.

The Namibian spoke to a source close to the matter who is also advocating the new parliament building, to find out why the price ballooned to N$2,4 billion.

The source said the final price of the new parliament is still not a done deal, since politicians are still deciding on what they want included in the new building.

“The N$2,4 billion figure was not thumb−sucked,” said the source, adding that the amount was determined as a result of a list of demands provided by the parliamentarians to the consultants.

Parliamentarians provided the consultants with what is called an accommodation schedule, a term used to describe a brief from the clients, outlining what they want, how they want it and how they will use the building.

The construction of the new parliament building has angered a section of the public who argue that government is prioritising wrong projects.

In fact, a group of young people have set 16 June to demonstrate against the proposed new parliament building.

The source insisted that the N$2,4 billion price (if it stays the same) will not be spent in one go and that it will take close to three years for the design and four more years to construct the actual building.

According to the official, designing the building will cost around 10% of the total project, which is N$240 million over three years.


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