What is your political background? How did you come to join your political party and become an MP? One of my mentors taught me that as a South African we are born in politics, e.g. when my mother gave birth to me it happened within a political context where she (and subsequently me) suffered under apartheid discrimination, racial oppression and economic exploitation. Later in life I became involved in liberation politics. My participation in student politics and the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) and being a founding activist in the UDF was organic.
I was detained under Apartheid’s Section 29 (security laws) during 1985. On my release I worked more consciously and deliberately with underground comrades of the ANC. As a staff member in the South African Council of Churches (SACC) from 1986 to 2011 my consciousness was raised even further and my theological and ideological positions merged. During the many years of service in the SACC I had the privilege of liaising with all progressive organisations and liberation movements across the ideological spectrum.
The ANC deployed me to Parliament in 2014.
What does your job as an MP entail? I am the Chairperson of the Select Committee on Trade and International Relations and I also serve on the Select Committee on Economic and Business Development dealing with six government departments. I also serve on the Joint Committee on Ethics and the Parliamentary Group on International Relations.
I participate in local, national and international programmes of Parliament; conduct oversight on government departments and engage in international study tours and meetings.
What are you finding most challenging about the Fifth Parliament? Socio-economic challenges and injustices continuous to haunt our country and citizens (correctly) expect MPs to address such. Paramount in the aforementioned is poverty, unemployment and inequality aggravated by our discriminatory past and the globalization of our world.
Consequences of the 2008/9 global crisis are difficult to mitigate and correct, more so in a developing country like South Africa. Disruptions resulting from the 4IR is a major challenge and great opportunity to address contemporary injustices while creating a new economic and social development agenda.
What obstacles prevent Parliament from doing its work and how would you fix it? -Increasing the capacity of South Africans for effective participation in inclusive economic growth and sustainable development
-Conducting regular oversight of the Executive and Programmes of government departments & entities reporting to the above mentioned two Select Committees
-Advocating for South Africa’s best interests in the international community
-Being attentive to the genuine needs and aspirations of citizens- especially women and youth
-Collaborating with CSOs that share national interests and ideals
-Appointment of suitably qualified and committed MPs
-Parliamentarians that priorities citizens needs and rights above party political interests
-Positioning South Africa for maximum beneficiation from the 4IR
-Research and familiarity that informs regular and rigorous engagements
-Building a legitimate democracy on successes!
Which constituency office have you been assigned to? Can you give examples of constituency work you engaged in? Greater Sophiatown.
Can you give examples of constituency work you engaged in? - Ensure that schools are ready to promote and inculcate a culture of learning and teaching
Liaising with religious organizations to address social challenges
Supporting NPOs in increasing their effectiveness
Enabling the improved participation of children in sporting activities.
Facilitating the effective participation of youth in entrepreneurship
Sharing and explaining activities and decisions of Parliament and government with constituents
Does Parliament do a good job of holding the Executive to account? If not, what can be done to improve this? There’s always room for improvement. MPs serving in SCs and PCs must rigorously familiarize themselves with the responsibilities and functions of the executives and the departments they minister. There should be regular oversight of and raising appropriate questions to the executive; insistence on executives attendance of committee meetings; and engaging with executives in study groups.
Are you happy with the proportional representation system or are you in favour of electoral reform? The PR system allows for the effective participation of smaller parties in Parliament. This was a very good system, especially during the transition period. The challenge is not in the electoral system, but in how elected members could be held accountable. Risks associated with the Westminster system is that valuable votes shall be lost and for a country where scores of citizens sacrificed life and limb in order to enjoy the right to vote, this right must be respected. Electoral reform that improves our exercise of democracy and accountability is welcomed.
Is Parliament’s public participation model adequate or robust enough that it affords enough public participation before a law is passed? Recent rulings of our courts added to the vibrancy of public participation, but over-reach is a risk. Historic disadvantages inhibit the effective participation of all South Africans in the affairs of Parliament. Weaknesses at the local level of government (municipalities) militate against participation of citizens. The commitments by Parliament to convene public hearings are progressive, especially on Section 76 legislation where provincial legislatures participate in the process. In order to give meaning to the slogan “Amandla Ngawethu” there is still much that should and could be done for effective participation of ordinary and historically disadvantaged people and communities in the affairs of Parliament and any legislation that impact on them.
What are you passionate about? This applies both in a political/professional arena as well as personally? I am passionate about seeing justice to be done; living in a society where true peace reigns; ensuring the effective and meaningful participation of all South Africans in our common political and economic lives; promoting the just and legitimate interests of women and youth; engaging in international events where the best interests of the developing world and LDCs are respected, supported and enhanced; and creating an ethical and moral base for engagement.
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