What is your political background? How did you come to join your political party and become an MP? My political activism originates from social cohesion as a practical thing. At around 13 years old I established a soccer team in the Libode rural area near Mthatha, Eastern Cape in 1978. In grade 7 I moved to Mthatha where I was exposed to township soccer tournaments. That kept us away from negative influences affecting the youth at the time.
After high school I started working at the Department of Correctional Services and I then joined the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) in 1989. It was where I was exposed to the politics of the liberation struggle as I was still in Mthatha which was in the Transkei homeland. It was also there I met ANC stalwart Mr James Zamiwonga Kati who was a political prisoner at the Butterworth prison of the then Transkei government. He and his comrades engaged and conscientised me about the struggle for freedom. I became a messenger between them and their comrades on the outside. From our engagements I formed a different opinion to what was the prevalent opinion about him and his comrades as they were labeled terrorists. Because of all of this I was arrested and suspended by the Transkei Correctional Services because of my interaction with the political prisoners. I resigned from that job in 1991 where the spirit of liberation had infected me and the plan was to work with communities.
I then joined the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) whilst we were also establishing the ANCYL at Gxididi village in Libode. We also established an ANC branch. I became a councillor in the Transitional Representative Council of 1995. I was then elected to be the chairperson of the executive committee at OR Tambo District Municipality when it was still known as the Kei District Council. In 1996 when Bantu Holomisa was expelled from the ANC, the Libode sub-region was against his expulsion such that we put together money to challenge that decision of the ANC through court proceedings. It became apparent then that the United Democratic Movement (UDM) was a matter of us being unhappy with the ANC decision and that the party we had established was devoid of an ideology. In 1999 I was then deployed to the Eastern Cape provincial parliament as a UDM MPL. The now deceased ANC stalwart Rev Makhenkesi Stofile approached me and asked me whether I would be proud to be called amongst those that had unseated the ANC in local government in the Eastern Cape where the opposition would be in power. My then response had been that I had simply wanted to prove the point that the ANC failed to listen to us. He asked what were the issues that the ANC had not attended to which had made the ANC support to decline in the Transkei, specifically the King Sabatha Dalindyebo (KSD) region at the height of UDM support and I told him what our issues had been. At the time Rev Stofile was the provincial chairperson of the ANC and I told him that if the ANC attended to the interests of the people of the KSD region, councillors would resign from the opposition and return to the ANC. Indeed the ANC heeded our call and took to rectifying the issues.
I then returned to the ANC as an ordinary member having resigned as a UDM MPL. In 2004 I was re-elected by the ANC through its list structures into the provincial legislature. In 2009 I was deployed to the National Assembly to the Portfolio Committee on Sports and Recreation. As part of my mandate then we took Parliament’s sports teams to the rural areas of the Eastern Cape such as eMqhekezweni during the inter-legislative games tournaments. After that I was redeployed to the Committees on Finance and Environmental Affairs.
In 2012 I was appointed to re-establish SANCO in the Eastern Cape and in 2013 I was elected as the SANCO provincial chairperson. That brought me closer the tripartite alliance decision makers in the province. That then elevated the role of civic issues in the broader politics of the alliance that people could not only be united through politics of political parties only, there needed to be civic partners. That had long been the President’s mantra from his first caucus address of 2009.
What does your job as an MP entail? Having come to Parliament I was encouraged to go back to school. I then registered for public administration and read up to Master’s level at Fort Hare University in the Eastern Cape. Daily I mobilize communities to see and access opportunities in government from the establishment of cooperatives, sports clubs in the rural areas.
On Mondays I deal with SANCO issues or deal with ANC branch matters or constituency issues as well. On Tuesday mornings I am attending committees in parliament and on Wednesdays I deal with my administration which includes submitting constituency issues to the relevant departments, entities or structures of parliament. On Thursdays morning I attend ANC caucus or cluster meetings so that on Friday I return to my constituency office to receive reports on visitors to the office to deal with the issues which would have brought them to seek assistance. On weekends I attend to sports and recreation as I remain an avid sporting enthusiast.
What are you finding most challenging about the Fifth Parliament? Parliament had lacked the will to ensure that its recommendations and resolutions were implemented by departments at committee level before the 5th parliament as if parliament had no muscle to enforce things.
At the National Assembly (NA) the posture of the opposition has brought the public’s interest to bear on whether we are following our constitutional mandate or not. Historically people had no interest in law making through parliament but to date people even visit the chamber when we debate. Unfortunately some Members become disrespectful in terms of how we engage each other during debates, though it is part of democracy to engage each other.
Which constituency office have you been assigned to? Can you give examples of constituency work you engaged in? I am deployed to Matatiele and there is a state of the art clinic that was recently built at Empindweni in my homestead. Additionally in Pola Park in Mthatha a 15 classroom school was built as part of my intervention. There are qualified professionals whom I assisted with schooling who are leaders in their fields.
Currently I am enjoying promoting collective development where, as government you ensure that when developing you consult traditional leaders, religious leaders and the ordinary people and ensure their participation as well in the development. That is a concept of a developmental state where communities own their infrastructure through women elders in charge of clinic committees and student governing bodies (SGBs) at schools.
Is Parliament’s public participation model adequate/ robust enough that it affords enough public participation before a law is passed? Currently the premier of the Eastern Cape Mr Phumulo Masualle has introduced war rooms called masiphathisane where all community leaders are invited at ward level to bring forth community matters. SANCOs participation in such forums is through its programme called, khuluma mhlali which complements the premier’s programme.
What are you passionate about? This applies both in a political/professional arena as well as personally? I would want to continue helping those without as I have registered a foundation to pool together resources to bring them to those areas where government does not easily reach.
What is your message to South Africa? The ANC has to be known and remembered for its ideology and roots and not be judged through what individuals are currently doing now. The principles of the ANC have to reign supreme and the production of the Freedom Charter as a guiding bible of the ANC now requires able and committed comrades and people outside the ANC to champion the cause of the destitute. Comrades and citizens of South Africa have to accept the fact that laxity and complaisance has brought us to where we are now.
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