New council chamber takes shape

A new state-of-the-art City of Johannesburg Council Chamber is slowly taking shape at the Braamfontein Civic Centre, with the promise of changing the boring and fortified concrete skyline which currently embodies the seat of power in Johannesburg.

The new chamber will depict a departure from the fortress-like structure, a symbol of the apartheid structural planning which sought to fortify government buildings in anticipation of increased liberation activity from the marginalised black community, which could threaten the seat of power.

Besides changing the skyline, the new chamber will also herald a new reference name for the Civic Centre, which will in future be known as the Metro Centre.

The building, which has a fortified glass outlook to keep out the noise of traffic and the hustle and bustle of the city, allows the administrators and political lawmakers a clear view of the surrounding activity of the daily life of the city while they debate crucial and pertinent issues and laws to govern the running of Johannesburg.

Speaking during a media tour of the work in progress, Alan Dinnie, manager of property development at the Johannesburg Property Company (JPC), the owners of the development project, said the new chamber will house the expanding number of bylawmakers who currently stand at 361 after the recent municipal election.

Part of the democratic process in the new dispensation as outlined in the Constitution is to open up and allow members of the public to attend council meetings, including members of the fourth estate, which is the media, to allow them to listen to the debates and discussions and deliberations taking place.

Dinnie said the old chamber had restricted this Constitutional requirement and was in actual fact in violation of the Constitution as it has tended to limit the number of citizens of the city to witness the council proceedings. A limited number of media personalities, too, were being allowed into the old chamber.

“Council could no longer continue to violate the Constitutional requirements and bar the public and media from accessing and attending council meetings, hence it initiated a process leading up to the building of the expanded chamber, with a bigger seating capacity, not just for councillors, but also for the public and media galleries too.”

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Sipho Siso

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