Liezl van der Merwe (IFP)


What is your political background and what attracted you to your political party? From age 10, I took a keen interest in politics. During the 80s, at the height of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid, I read everything I could find about the leaders of our struggle. It was during this time that I first became interested in Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

After school I left for London. I briefly returned to study journalism, but went back to the UK in 2005 to work for UK news broadcaster ITV, in London. Upon my return from London at the end of 2006, I joined the IFP as a media officer. I took up membership of the Party and joined the IFP Youth Brigade. I became a Member of Parliament (MP) in 2012.

During the past ten years, I have not only been an IFP activist but have championed the cause of the most vulnerable in our society. I serve as Parliamentary Whip, and as a Member of the IFP National Council – the highest decision-making body of the Party. I also hold membership of the IFP Women’s Brigade.

Going forward I hope to play a significant role in ensuring that more young people become active in politics through the IFP.

What does my job as an MP entail? My job as an MP involves a number of different responsibilities. I serve on a variety of Committees, namely: - Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests - Parmed Board of Trustees - Portfolio Committee on Women in the Presidency - Portfolio Committee on Social Development

I am also an alternate member on the Portfolio Committees on Communications, Telecommunications and Postal and the Chief Whips Forum.

Before attending Committee meetings, I must ensure that I’ve done my research and am well prepared. The same applies to sittings of the National Assembly, which demand a lot of background reading and research. For each sitting, I prepare draft notices of motions, motions without notice, members statements, declarations or speeches, depending on the programme of the House.

As a Whip, I perform a number of duties inside the National Assembly and within my specific political party.

What is your impression of the Fifth Parliament so far? The Fifth Parliament reminds me of the traditional Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times". We certainly do find ourselves in interesting times. It is both a blessing and a curse! While I appreciate the fact that citizens are taking a keener interest in the business of Parliament, and that the fifth Parliament has so many young MPs, I regret the fact that with a more robust Parliament, leaders at times treat one another with disrespect and disdain. The fact that constructive debate has been replaced by threats and insults is disconcerting.

Where is your constituency? What has been most interesting about your constituency so far? I am assigned to serve the IFP in the Western Cape. But I also do constituency work in Durban and Ulundi.

Constituency work is challenging and humbling. One of the most interesting parts of this work has been the opportunity to get to know many new people, on a much closer basis, and to share in their daily challenges and hopes for the future. One of the most challenging parts of this work is working in communities, which have extremely high unemployment rates, limited access to running water and no electricity. Two members of my constituency for example have been on housing waiting lists for the past 18 years. Trying to correct these wrongs is why constituency work is such a fundamental part of our roles and responsibilities as Members of Parliament.

What are you passionate about? This applies both to both professionally/politically and personally. Politically, I am passionate about my Party, and South Africa at large. I am truly proudly South Africa. I hope that in my own small way I will be able to help build a better South Africa for all South Africans.

Professionally, I am passionate about the rights of women, children and people with disabilities. I have devoted my time at Parliament since 2012 to these issues. I have also recently been able to lobby my Party to champion the provision of free sanitary products for school girls who cannot afford them, so that we can restore their dignity and keep them in school.

Personally, I am passionate about animals, and I’m a great sports fan! Especially athletics and rugby. And I have taken up playing golf. I am not any good as yet, but only time will tell if I will succeed in this new challenge.

What is your message to South Africans? Every generation has got its own struggles. This generation’s struggle is that of unemployment, education and substance abuse. Unemployment, especially youth unemployment has reached critical levels. As our economy slows down, inequality and despair is on the increase. This is the reality we face. But my message to South Africans is not to give up hope. We must be the change we want to see in South Africa. We are a country with so much potential. A brighter future for all can be achieved if we unite behind this goal.

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