Hannah Shameema Winkler

"What we need is to unite around a common vision of the South Africa we want to build"


Question 1: What is your political background? How did you come to join your political party and become an MP?

I studied Political Science and Philosophy at university, completing an Honours degree in Politics. I realised that academia provided a route into Politics and an opportunity to enter into government to participate in formulating legislation to improve the lives of the most vulnerable in South Africa. I have always felt a deep need to contribute to humanitarian causes. I was involved in community work at university: outreach to victims of xenophobia, as well as student assistance within my department. My ambition has always been to stand as a Public Representative; to this end, I joined the Democratic Alliance (DA) as a Researcher and Media Officer, progressing through various positions, including Ethekwini Group Campaign Manager for the 2019 elections, before being elected as a Member of Parliament.

Question 2: What does your job as an MP entail? What do you enjoy about being an MP?

As an MP, we are allocated by our political party to portfolio committees where we perform the role of oversight, drive issues, and contribute to the discourse on legislation and even draft novel legislation. I am a member of the Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries portfolio committee. Performing effective oversight requires in-depth research and knowledge of the mandate of your department, enabling meaningful contribution and effective departmental and ministerial oversight. Engaging and forging relationships with stakeholders outside of government i.e. civil society is tremendously important to ensure that you effectively represent the interests of your constituents through collaboration. Outside of legislative responsibilities, MPs serve as Constituency Heads in their home provinces where we provide political guidance, participate in party work, and keep abreast of our constituents needs by representing their interests in Parliament. I enjoy everything about being an MP, especially the ability to contribute to drafting and amending legislation and to create actual tangible change on the ground. Being elected as an MP is to be given a mandate of leadership on a national platform to speak to and represent millions of South Africans. This is possibly one of the greatest honours to ever receive and I take this mandate very seriously.

Question 3: What are your or your party's aspirations/plans for the Sixth Parliament?

My ambition for the Sixth Parliament is to put green issues on the parliamentary agenda. I believe that forward-thinking legislation on environmentalism is integral to the flourishing of the human and non-human world. In South Africa, we are privileged with incredible biodiversity which should be safeguarded through policy that speaks to the protection of our natural heritage for its own value, as well as for present and future generations. Fighting for clean air, water, oceans and land are just some of the most salient issues that need to be urgently addressed and given due attention by government. I also believe that moral consideration for sentient beings is a very important issue, as we should be working towards a more compassionate, healed South Africa. By tending to those who are the voiceless and vulnerable, we engender a culture of compassion that I believe will translate into a more caring and considerate society overall.

As the DA, we recognise there is a huge jobs crisis in SA that is the biggest impediment to achieving a free, fair, open opportunity society. We believe that our policies to grow the economy and create jobs are sound and should be taken seriously by government. We also have serious issues in policing, healthcare and education that need to be urgently fixed. South Africa is also facing a crisis in GBV which needs immediate solutions. As the DA, we believe we have many excellent ideas and policies which could save our country. As the official opposition, we want to ensure that all South Africans have access to the best opportunities possible. To this end, we serve to hold the executive accountable, represent our constituents to the best of our ability, and to ensure that public funds are not mismanaged.

Question 4: What obstacles prevent Parliament from doing its work and how would you fix it?

I believe that opposition parties (especially the official opposition) should be afforded the opportunity to hold more leadership positions within parliament, as well as within portfolio committees. This will allow for the exercise of better accountability over government, a more equitable platform for a plurality of ideas to prevail, and serve to stimulate co-operation between parties to achieve outcomes. I also believe that citizens should be encouraged into active civic involvement through more meaningful inclusion re: public participation. I believe that the way to encourage participation is through educational initiatives that get young people to think critically and to care about achieving a greater good. I think that Philosophy should be taught in all schools to develop independent thinking and civic responsibility.

Question 5: Which Constituency Office have you been assigned to? Can you give examples of Constituency work you engaged in?

I have been allocated as the Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (DASO) MP for KwaZulu Natal. As a DASO MP, I am responsible for growing DA student structures at tertiary institutions in my province to better represent student interests. My constituency work includes conducting regular oversight to campuses, meeting with campus management to broach and resolve student issues, working with DASO councillors, members, and branches to identify and drive campaigns which highlight important student issues, as well as developing innovative ideas to secure quality educational opportunities and learning environments for all students. Examples of DASO campaign initiatives are the mobilisation for better campus security, gender-based violence support and awareness, student safety, and student support.

Question 6: Does Parliament do a good job of holding the Executive to account? If not, what can be done to improve this?

I think that in its current guise, Parliament could do better to hold the executive to account by ensuring that parliamentary questions are responded to timeously. The way to address this is to ensure that there is effective consequence management for non-compliance. The contribution and critique from opposition parties should be meaningfully engaged with in policy formation and when addressing the gamut of issues facing South Africa. The best ideas and solutions should prevail in parliament to achieve the common good as opposed to opposition in the name of politicking.

Question 7: Are you happy with the proportional representation system or are you in favor of electoral reform?

Proportional representation does not hold political leaders directly accountable, as party processes appoint MPs and Ministers. I also believe that the President should be directly elected by voters, so that he remains individually accountable.

Question 8: What can be done to get citizens more interested/ involved in Parliament? Is this an area where Parliament can improve and if so, what recommendations do you have? What are you passionate about? This applies both in political/ professional arena as well as personally?

I am very passionate about Philosophy. I think that including Philosophy in the school curriculum will train young people on how to think critically, independently and engender a natural sense of curiosity in themes that are core to Politics; for example, justice, democracy, ethics and government. I think that there is too much voter apathy in South Africa, especially amongst young people. By encouraging active citizenry through educational initiatives, I believe we can develop an extremely flourishing and effective democracy.

Question 9: What is your message to South Africa?

South Africa is an incredibly unique and beautiful country abound with potential. What we need is to unite around a common vision of the South Africa we want to build - one in which we uplift the most vulnerable, where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and realise their potential, where we focus on building a green economy that creates employment whilst protecting our environment, and where the rights of sentient beings to moral consideration are realised. A kind, united South Africa is within reach with the right leadership. Your vote can direct the course of history. Use your power!


Keep comments free of racism, sexism, homophobia and abusive language. People's Assembly reserves the right to delete and edit comments

(For newest comments first please choose 'Newest' from the 'Sort by' dropdown below.)