Political background: I’ve always been an activist and was involved in school and civic politics, including getting expelled from the University of Fort Hare. I was also very much involved in the unions – I was a founding member of what is now known as the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA), but when it was still called the Metal and Allied Workers Union in the 80s. I was also involved in the Detainees Parents Support Committee and the National Education Crisis Committee and at school I was also part of the SRC. I’ve also been arrested, went to prison and was tortured because of my political involvement.
What does your job as an MP entail? It entails holding the Executive accountable and keeping my constituency informed of what is happening in Parliament and resolving whatever difficulties they might have from my advantaged position. This advantage means I can call any Minister, any Mayor, any councilor or any entity if there was a matter that needed to be resolved. I am also a political animal so in my constituencies I do my ANC political work by going door to door to tell people what we have done and why they should vote ANC during elections. Ensuring public participation is also an important part of being an MP to ensure people are part of what is unfolding. Another part of being an MP is also to ensure that what the Department said it would do, is indeed done – this was done on oversight visits.
What have your impressions been on the Fifth Parliament? When the Fifth Parliament started, we were all taken by surprise but at least we are becoming a little accustomed. People do not realise that the work of Parliament essentially happens at committee level. Nevertheless, the work of Parliament was carrying on as expected. New rules were being drafted and they will deal with issues of conduct because new circumstances required new rules of engagement. By and large, Parliament continues to do its job - it continues to craft legislation, be robust in debates and hold the executive accountable. Parliament has not been throttled but it was different to preceding Parliaments.
What constituency area have you been assigned to? What aspects of constituency work interest you the most? Because I am a member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC), I am assigned a province – that province is KZN. I was assigned the Moses Mabhida region in Pietermaritzburg and this is where my constituency (Vulindlela)is located.
I enjoy being able to provide concrete resolutions to the difficulties faced by our people. For example in Vulindlela, there were some young men and women who formed an organisation that assisted others to matriculate, but they almost closed down because of a lack of funds, but we were able to intervene to be able to pay the volunteers – this made me feel good. Another area of intervention was the Vulindlela Community Fund. The area was not well off but it was hoped that next year through the fund, some kids could be sent for tertiary education. The Fund was still at a starting point but the mere fact that people were making contributions, gave me a lot of joy. There were also small things like assisting young people to get an ID.
What are you passionate about? I am passionate about my people in this country and I am very passionate about ensuring they have better lives. The unemployment crisis in SA is serious and this was an issue that needs to be zoomed into. I live in a township in Witbank and I can see the suffering of old men who are unemployed and needed to face their families everyday – there is nothing as painful as that. When you are the poorest of the poor you lose your self-respect as well and this needed to be dealt with. My struggle is to ensure people have better lives with dignity and self respect and with mutual respect for their fellow countrymen, black or white. I also believe education is key to graduate from poverty to some semblance of a better life. There should be some methodology to raise people up from poverty and in my view, this was through education, for people to have skills, earn a living and have self respect.
What is your message to SA? South Africans must know we are one country, but unemployment, poverty and inequality are threats to the country. We all need to play our part in fighting these challenges before it is too late. There are some very well off people, but what are they doing? Madiba said one should do whatever one could to help someone worse off than oneself. There was a role for everyone to play including government and the private sector. As long as my people get work and they are able to face their wives and children with dignity, I’ll be the happiest person.
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