Cape Town cashes in on opening of Parliament

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

The provincial ANC is planning a fancy dinner to cash in on the opening of Parliament next week, while downtown hotels are already fully booked for the annual red carpet affair in Cape Town.

President Jacob Zuma is to usher in a new year of debates – hopefully peaceful – and law-making – hopefully sensible – on Thursday at 7pm.

MP Julius Malema’s EFF rebels have meanwhile threatened to disrupt the event, which has cemented itself as the fashion highlight on the political calendar.

EFF wants Zuma to answer questions about the public protector’s findings regarding irregular government spending on his private residence in Nkandla.

So it will be an action-packed night, with Zuma’s State of the Nation Address likely to grab headlines for its review of the past year.

But more newsworthy always seems to be what parliamentarians were wearing en route to their first meeting for the year. Usually, they are dressed in some of local fashion’s finest, at times even its most disastrous.

With all the country’s political leaders in Cape Town, the provincial ANC has decided to host a dinner that will cost R10,000 per diner.

The party’s provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile told Weekend Argus this week their “presidential dinner” is planned for Wednesday night at the Cape Sun Hotel.

“We are taking the opportunity to host this dinner while high profilers are in Cape Town. We will raise funds for the provincial branch of the ANC,” said Mjongile.

He said they also intended to capitalise on the Investing in African Mining Indaba running Monday to Thursday next week at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. It hosts at least 7,000 delegates from 2,100 international companies and 110 countries.

Mjongile said: “We have targeted a lot of influential individuals and business people. We are targeting mining magnates, property barons and those people who can afford such an event.”

He said their dinner would accommodate only 400 diners. He confirmed deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, who has financial interests in Lonmin mine in the North West province, is also set to attend the dinner.

The provincial ANC will also host a live streaming of the opening of Parliament at the Southern Sun Hotel on Thursday.

“Dinner arrangements would also be made for this,” said Mjongile.

He said Parliament’s opening “leads to the development of Cape Town”.

“On the day there is some inconvenience (such as road closures) for economic benefit. We have to make sacrifices because there is development,” he said.

“We have people coming to town for business but next time they will come for leisure.”

Managers at a number of hotels near Parliament’s buildings on Plein Street said their rooms are fully booked for this week.

Antonio Carpanese, general manager of Parliament Hotel on Barrack Street, said they in fact have “full occupancy in February”.

“Parliament has a big influence on that. There are people coming from other towns. But there are other events and tourism generally as well that have contributed,” said Carpanese.

He said their hotel up the road from Parliament usually has more guests in February anyway.

“A lot of people who didn’t take leave (from work) in December take their holiday in February. It’s also the best month in summer to be on holiday. People are afraid of the Christmas crowd and that’s gone now,” he said.

“The city is still buzzing. It’s not yet in hibernation.”

Michael Pownall, general manager of the Taj Hotel, said the annual opening of Parliament “has a positive impact because we are in the centre of the action”.

This hotel is located opposite Parliament and is in a section of Wale Street that is usually closed off to traffic on the opening day.

“This large annual event with very many corporate chief executives and overseas diplomats in attendance is good news for both the hotel and the central city area,” said Pownall.

“Most local hotels greatly benefit from the number of non-local visitors who arrive, and smaller functions or meetings around this annual event.

“Our overseas visitors are also always interested to observe what goes on during the opening. It has a positive effect on our area and is even a tourist attraction.”

Terence Duckitt, deputy general manager at Mandela Rhodes Hotel on St George’s Mall, said guests this month would be a “mix of government officials, corporates and international travellers”.

“It’s primarily government and business bookings. Our guests are here for the opening of Parliament and mining indaba,” said Duckitt.

The hotel has 65 apartment-sized self-catering rooms at R2,100 to R5,000 per night. Duckitt said there had been “price increases due to demand” for rooms.

Duckitt said the knock-on effect was that “guests are also going on tours while here”.

“They usually pre-book tours before or after their event. They usually stay on for leisure activities. They spend money here (Cape Town),” he said.

Politicians would likely also be dining out or partying after the official business is out the way.

The V&A Waterfront’s party venue Shimmy Beach Club’s marketing manager Lisa Carey said their week ahead looks packed. She said Shimmy’s “lounge club will be open from 9pm to 4am with DJ’s playing”.

“We are almost at 100% occupancy (for events) but can’t tell if it is as a result of mining indaba or the opening of Parliament. Both are important contributors of course,” she said.

“We’ve also had to turn some business away because of the mining indaba as we didn’t have space.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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