What is your political background? I was actively involved in the formation of the Youth League in Umtata in the 1970s. I was approached by the security branch while at university and asked to become a spy, which I turned down. This request led to my resignation from politics and it cost me, as I was unable to finish the degree I was pursuing. After my resignation from politics, I kept myself informed about what was happening in South Africa, and I formed opinions, read newspapers and subsequently proceeded with my studies. It was only in August 2013 that I approached General Bantu Holomisa after having looked at all political parties. I chose the UDM because the party positions itself in the central left and this was my preferred position. I believed that I could play a critical role in the party.
What does your job as an MP entail? I was given an opportunity to choose the portfolio committee I wanted to attend as a Member of Parliament and my first choices were the Portfolio Committees on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as well as Public Works. However, I soon realised that more meaningful contribution could be made in the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform. I am currently a permanent Member in the Portfolio Committees on Public Works and Rural Development and Land Reform and an alternate Member in the Portfolio Committees on Agriculture and Sports and Recreation. I have a keen interest in sport and there was no way I could avoid adding a voice in that committee.
What constituency area have you been assigned to you by your party? What has been the highlights of your constituency work? My constituency is Amathole District Municipality but I also have latitude to be involved in any other parts in the Eastern Cape which calls for my attention. There are always challenges for a small party with a very small representation in Parliament. I take the opportunity to interest myself in the issues that arise in my District area, particularly East London. These issues usually are water challenges, corruption - especially at local government level, non-performance, collusion and under-performance by the national departments in their spheres, like the Department of Public Works.
I live in Ngcongcolora village and we have a situation where the area has been demarcated without the involvement of the residents. The speaker of Mnquma Municipality has been asked to explain the matter to the residents and it was clear that the speaker and the Board never even attempted to consult community members. We are planning to take the Board to court as there was no consultation with community members at all. Agriculture is critically important in my area and it is regarded as the primary source of food and income to a lot of people. A lot of people in my area are also dependent on social grants in order to survive.
I also have a big interest in infrastructure development. We know that people cannot get to their destinations without proper infrastructure in place. There was a big story recently about a Public Works road infrastructure contract of R220 million in Ports St Johns that stalled, because people are demanding jobs from the company despite the fact that 200 people have already been employed by the company. I have already raised the matter in the Public Works Committee.
I have also raised the issue of Baziya Community Land Claim with the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform last year and I was given a written response assuring me that the claim will be settled before the end of the current financial year. I am very passionate about what I do and I always engage with people and take their matters or challenges to Parliament and relevant Ministers.
Highlights of Parliament so far? The Expropriation Bill [B4-2015] was quite a highlight for me as I contributed tremendously on the Bill. Even the Deputy Minister of Public Works, Mr Jeremy Cronin complimented me on the day that the Bill was tabled in the National Assembly. I have made a significant contribution towards making sure that the Bill was as tight as possible. I did not support the Bill in the Committee and National Assembly because the definition of “expropriation” only limited us to the land that had been acquired from 1913 onward and excluded the land that had been acquired before that. I am pleased to see that the President is now talking about ways of looking at land claims before 1913 and I would claim that as a highlight for me. I am for the claiming of the land for rightful people and I support the concept of government expropriating land where it is needed for public purposes.
I was also the one who raised the issue of a programme for the development of contractors, as there was no concrete and complete programme for contractor development.
The fact that I participated very boldly in transformation in sport is also a highlight for me. I think I have made a contribution to where we are in rugby at the moment, in terms of transformation. I anxiously hope that the new Springbok coach will show a serious appetite for transformation.
I have also made a contribution in respect of the Performing Animals Protection Bill [B9-2015] that was passed in the National Assembly on 8 March 2016.
In addition, I was also pleased to be able to join the debate about a national minimum wage and was particularly pleased to receive a positive response from the Deputy President when I suggested that government should come up with an interim minimum wage for South African workers while still trying to fine-tune and agree with all the sectors on a longer lasting and sustainable minimum wage. The Deputy President positively responded that “this was a refreshing thought worth considering”.
What are you most passionate about - this applies both in a political/professional arena as well as personally? Socially, I am passionate about rugby and about development. I make sure that everything I do has a developmental element. I am extremely passionate about ways to use statistics to inform upward movement of any government programme. The focus at the moment seems to be on spending the entire allocated budget and achieving a clean audit without focusing on the social and economic upward mobility of communities.
What would your message to South Africa be? Racism is deadly to both black and white, in different ways and degrees though. We need to find ways and means to eradicate racism. We should be more accommodative and respectful of each other. Anybody who is employed and earning a salary should look at ways of creating a job for the next person. It is painful to have no income and it is worse when you have a family to take care for.
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