BACKGROUND ON SOUTH AFRICA’S
HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT
National Heritage Site declaration: 7 April 2014
The Houses of Parliament and the Parliamentary precinct are home to the legislative capital of South Africa. Just as South Africa has undergone many changes and transformations, so have the buildings of Parliament. The varying needs of government have required changes and additions be made to the building. Through all these changes, however, the stately Victorian Neo-Classic façade has been retained, with African influences introduced in the interior of the building.
The first building was completed in 1885, nestled in VOC Company Gardens, which was originally established to supply the refreshment station at the Castle. The building arose from the need to join the two houses of the Cape Colony at the time – Cape Legislative Assembly (Lower House) and Cape Legislative Council (Upper House). Interestingly, it was the first house in Cape Town to make use of an electrified light system.
A new building was added when the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910 and was used as the Chamber of the Union Parliament until 1961. The old chambers were used by the Senate throughout the Union and Republic, until 1980.
The second chamber of Cape Parliament was converted into a stately dining room where Prime Minister Harold MacMillian made his famous “Winds of Change” speech which clearly stated the end of British Imperial rule in Africa.