What is your political background? How did you come to join your political party and become an MP?
I am from Limpopo, Sekhukhune district, from a village called Ga-mela. Coming from such a background I always felt the poverty in the villages could be ameliorated. I went to Jane Furse for high school studies and only then, through reading newspapers and engaging with other learners, I understood why there was such abject poverty of the black masses. I went to Turfloop, University of Venda in 1982, and in my second year I started participating in student politics by joining the Azanian Students Organisation (AZASO), which later became Azanian Students Congress (AZASCO).
In 1984 I was one of the people who started a youth movement in Sekhukhune called Sekhukhune Youth Organisation. By 1985 our organisation was already under the banner of the United Democratic Front (UDF).
In 1987 I started working for the Detainees Support Committee which was led by Dr Mathole Motshekga. We visited political prisoners at the time to bring them blankets, clothes and other necessities. On 27 April 1987 I was arrested and detained for two years.
On 6 March 1989 I was released and restricted to Sekhukhune district, but that was later lifted due to my need to earn a living. My political activities had to be clandestine, but had continued after my release. I joined the Progressive Primary Healthcare Network (PPHN) in 1989 which had offices all over the country and I became one of the coordinators in Limpopo. PPHN was led by the late Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang with Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and others.
In 1990 I joined Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) until 1995. In the same year when the ANC was unbanned I was appointed one of the regional coordinators in Limpopo when Mr Thabo Lucas Makunyane led the province. As the South African Youth Congress (SAYCO) became the ANC Youth League (ANCYL,) I became the treasurer around 1991.
In 1995, I was elected as the ANC Regional Chairperson in Sekhukhune. In 1996, I was then elected to the Provincial Executive Council (PEC) of the ANC in Limpopo and served from 1996 until 2008. In 1995 I also had joined the provincial administration of Limpopo as an advisor to Commissioner (MEC now) Sa’ad Cachalia who was MEC for Constitutional Affairs in Limpopo. In 1996, I was sworn in as a Member of the Provincial legislature (MPL) where I served as the chairperson of chairpersons in Limpopo’s Legislature. In 2000 I was redeployed to be Executive Mayor of Capricorn District Municipality. I remained the Mayor until 2010, where I also was a PEC member and treasurer of the ANC in Limpopo until 2008.
In 2011, I was appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Trade and Investments in Limpopo (TIL), an entity of the Limpopo Economic Development Department. About three years into that, TIL and other entities were amalgamated into Limpopo Economic Development Agency (LEDA) where I was the chief executive for trade investments. By this time, I had ceased to be in the PEC, but when the Capricorn district structure of the ANC was dissolved towards the 2014 general elections, the ANC had appointed me to be convener for the re-establishment of the Capricorn district structures of the ANC. With the re-establishment of the Capricorn district ANC region I was elected chairperson until June 2018. I arrived in Parliament in March 2017 as per my party request.
What does your job as an MP entail?
I am currently the co-chairperson of the Joint-Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament. I have served in the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs portfolio in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
Before becoming co-chairperson, the ANC had also moved me to the Select Committees on Finance and that of Appropriations in the NCOP. I am also a member of the Joint Ethics committee.
On Mondays I am at my constituency, Tuesdays until Thursdays mornings I am attending one of the four committees I am deployed to. In the afternoons, I attend NCOP plenary sessions. On Fridays, when there is no extraordinary committee session, I travel back home.
What are you finding most challenging about the Fifth Parliament?
The difference is the workload when comparing the provincial legislature to the national legislature. The provincial legislatures also generally implement laws rather than making laws although they do make provincial laws from time to time.
Which constituency office have you been assigned to? Can you give examples of constituency work you engaged in?
My constituency is Lebowakgomo, Limpopo. Of the work that I have been involved with right across my political career, the mayorship of the Capricorn district had been most rewarding. We tarred major roads that linked towns like Lebowakgomo to Ga-Mphahlele and then to Burgersfort. We were also able to pipe water to villages and townships that had formerly never had piped water. Currently at my constituency, we deal with issues of insuring non-interruption of water services in Lebowa and assisting citizens to access social welfare, especially grants and human settlements matters.
Does Parliament do a good job of holding the Executive to account? If not, what can be done to improve this?
Seeing that it is my first experience of the national legislature, I am satisfied with our work although there may be challenges here and there in provinces implementing programmes and projects, especially on the oversight that councillors and provincial legislatures are supposed to be doing on departments in their provinces.
Are you happy with the proportional representation system or are you in favour of electoral reform?
At local government proportional representation is fine; however the caliber of people we end up deploying as councillors at municipalities remains a challenge, i.e. the actual morality and ethics of persons we deploy.
Is Parliament’s public participation model adequate/ robust enough that it affords enough public participation before a law is passed?
I am satisfied with how the NCOP does its public participation, but we certainly can collaborate more with provincial governments in terms of oversight first but also delivery as well. We also can improve how we engage our provincial counterparts including departments by not being imposing when we require matters to be resolved.
What are you passionate about? This applies both in a political/professional arena as well as personally?
Being a social activist or community development worker and serving the people is my bigger passion as I have also been involved in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) by serving in boards and developing their constitutions.
What is your message to South Africa?
South Africans have to remember that during elections that they are the bosses, and therefore elect political parties and individuals that are committed to improving the lot of citizens. They need to consider the track record of each political party. Of course political parties have committed mistakes and some have been found wanting, but also ensured a positive difference in the living conditions of many South Africans.
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