Get To Know Traverse Le Goff

1. How did you come to join your political party and become an MP?

It has been a pretty long journey getting here, but I think my first real appreciation of what politics is really came into sharp focus for me when I was about 7 years old, and I developed an ambient understanding that something really important and consequential was happening in the country. I remember the flurry of news activity and watching Nelson Mandela being released from Victor Verster Prison on the television, and just coming to the stark realisation of how very broken our society was. Of course the jubilation of that singular moment – the triumph of the human spirit over such sadness – just really imprinted on me, it was such a powerful example of how much agency a single determined individual has to change the world for the better if they really want to.

My parents were quite liberal folk, and that left a very strong impression on me growing-up. And so I guess what emanated from that developed into a lifelong affinity for politics which lead me to join my political party initially as an activist.

I am very optimistic about South Africa, but seeing the gradual decline of our constitutional democracy and our steady drift toward state failure increasingly motivated me to really want to do something meaningful that could make a difference. I must also confess my alarm over the climate crisis has also played a really big part motivating me in all of this. I initially felt quite paralysed by the immensity of the problem, and especially and what the consequences will be for our country, but that quickly transformed into an invincible desire to get to work and to do something about it. I simply refused to be a spectator anymore, and that really is where my strong motivation to keep pressing-on comes from.

And so I took a leap of faith and decided to stand for public office, which first lead me to being elected as Councillor in the City of Cape Town, which was probably greatest learning experience of my entire life, it completely changed the way I look at the world and about what is important.

I have always been a person that thinks about “the big picture” and I like looking at problems on a global-level. After seeing the many complex challenges we face as a society from the perspective of local government. it made me realise just how big the disconnect is between the two spheres of government sometimes, especially in the context of the climate crisis.

So I thought to myself you know this might be a little bit crazy, but I may as well just see if I can play my part in trying to save the world. And so I put my name forward and submitted myself to my party’s internal review process where they select Members of Parliament, and the rest is basically history.

2. What is one goal that you would like to achieve during your time as an MP?

I’d like to see if I can have an impact in raising awareness about climate change with people beyond just my party, I don’t think we’ve really taken a moment as a country to process the magnitude of the threat, and just how serious what we are facing actually is.

3. What does your job as an MP entail, and what do you find challenging/demanding?

There is a lot of reading and engaging with civil society, both because of my assigned portfolio and constituency work, we are after all public representatives, and in order to represent the citizens of South Africa it is essential to listen to what they have to say and to do it often. I think that is very important to be effective. You also need to stay on the forefront of what is happening, and to be constantly gauging what the national mood is so you can influence policy and lobby for reforms where necessary. The constitutional functions of the office are quite clear – especially in respect of conducting oversight and the holding the executive branch of government to account. To be effective you need to also understand and study your assigned portfolio to the point of becoming a subject matter expert, if possible, which is no easy task, if not that, well then then you better make damn sure you are constantly speaking to people that are much more knowledgeable and smarter than you are! The actual process of legislating happens in a multitude of ways, but I think building relationships is fundamental to everything, nothing meaningful happens if you can’t do that. This of course can all be really challenging and also quite demanding, but I do enjoy it, and I feel like what I do matters, and that makes it all worth it.

4. Which constituency office have you been assigned to? Can you give examples of constituency work you engage in?

I am assigned to Blaauwberg/Durbanville 1 Constituency. Constituency work is fairly broad, but this ideally entails oversight of the entire geographic area and requires engaging with the public to hear their concerns so I can then take that back to Parliament and make sure they are heard in the place where our laws are made. It is my responsibility to alert Parliament to any issues I identify where government is failing to live up to the aspirations of the constitution. There is also a lot of engagement with various stakeholders at every juncture to try find local solutions for the challenges that my constituents face.

5. How do you think Parliament can drive more public participation in policy, legislation and voting?

In my opinion politics is always local, and though I get a strong sense right now of many people being quite apathetic, I think there is also a stark realisation occurring at the moment that you can opt out of voting but you can’t opt out of its effects. To me Parliament must absolutely find ways to become closer to the people, and it must create mechanisms to drive greater public participation. I would like to see a lot more institutional innovation on the technological front, and I am actually quite eager to see a public petition portal which is legally binding introduced, which at the very least compels or initiates debate in the National Assembly on matters of importance to the public. Though parties can of course do this, the Speaker can also decline to table a matter, which is why something like this should really exist! I would like to see public petitions to compel debate become legally binding, especially if hundreds of thousands of people sign a parliamentary petition online. I can’t think of a better way to get South Africans to care a bit more about the legislative process. If they have more of a say in what happens in Parliament I think they will be a lot more inclined to pay more attention to what happens there.

6. What are you passionate about, both professionally and personally?

Well I am quite an environmentalist, and that transposes over a lot into my professional life. I am a bit of a geek and a pretty big Star Trek fan, a Trekkie if you will, and I am quite unapologetic about that. It’s probably where I get my idealism from! I love adventure and sci-fi movies too, they are a nice escape from a long day, it also helps feed my pretty vivid imagination. I also love exercising and running especially, and I have been quite committed to those pursuits my entire life. Vocationally I have done film and television acting as a side-hustle since I was a kid, that is my other great passion I suppose, and I have been in quite a few commercials and television series over the years.

7. Which social justice issues are you most concerned with?

The Climate Crisis. It’s the biggest problem humanity faces, and it is going to make every single problem we have right now a whole lot worse unless we act more decisively and with greater urgency to address it. The human rights implications are also beyond massive. The world is presently on track for a catastrophic warming scenario, and if we do not avert that then it will be the final curtain call for modern human beings on planet Earth.

8. Does Parliament do a good job of holding the Executive to account? If not, what can be done to improve this? I don’t think Parliament does a very good job at all of doing this. A lot of the time it is actually complicit in enabling bad behaviour. But this is not an institutional failure of Parliament per se, but more indicative of the quality of some of the politicians that have been elected. If you look at state capture during the Zuma Administration nobody can really accuse the official opposition of not raising the alarm and trying to hold the executive to account through Parliament. The sad reality is that there is only so much you can expect of Parliament as an institution to protect democracy if our citizens willingly choose to ignore the evidence before them and they keep voting for political parties that seem to have everything but their best interests at heart. If South Africans vote for persons of weak character who aspire to steal every cent of public money that they can get their hands on, then they will ultimately get what they vote for.

9. What are you or your party's aspirations/plans for the remainder of the Sixth Parliament?

To do everything possible to contain the energy crisis and to not let it get any worse. Right now load-shedding is the most immediate threat there is to our viability as a constitutional democracy. We must avoid a national blackout scenario like our lives depend on it, because they do.

10. What obstacles prevent Parliament from doing its work and how would you fix it?

Right now the only thing that can really fix Parliament and restore it to August House, what the original framers of our Constitution envisaged, is to vote in a completely new national government in 2024. Parliament as an institution is always only going to be as good as the people in it.

View Mr Le Goff's profile here


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