What is your political background? I was born and bred in the Eastern Cape and I grew up in a politically inclined family as my maternal grandfather was a political activist. I was formerly a member of the African National Congress (ANC) and participated in South African Student Congress (SASCO) activities although I prioritised my academic work over political activities. I left the ANC in 2006 and then joined the United Democratic Movement (UDM) in 2007. I have worked as part of the support staff at the UDM until I became a Member of Parliament in 2013 and I then became the Chief Whip of the party in 2014. One of the responsibilities of being a Chief Whip is to run the administration of the party and for implementing the strategies of the political party in the House and this included whatever decision that was taken as a collective. Political parties are not a homogenous group of people hence there are sometimes disagreements between opposition parties on a number of issues and this is perfectly normal in a multiparty democracy.
What does my job as an MP entail? The job of an MP is to make laws and to play an oversight role over the work of government, the executive and government departments. It is also our responsibility to ensure that government programmes are responsive to the needs of the public to reduce the misuse of state resources and wasteful or irregular expenditure. Many people do not realise that the real work of Parliament actually takes place in portfolio committees. Unfortunately, the downside for smaller parties like the UDM is that its members have to cover as many portfolio committees as possible. I am a primary member of two portfolio committees and an alternate member of four committees and it is often difficult to attend those meetings if they are scheduled on the same day.
What is your impression of the Fifth Parliament so far? There are a lot of young people in the Fifth Parliament and therefore it is expected that there would be a heightened level of dynamism in the House. It has injected a certain level of energy that was not there before. Some of the things that are currently happening in Parliament are putting the ruling party under pressure to do the right thing in some instances and it also exposes the weaknesses of the ruling party. I think the Fifth Parliament has also shown that we as opposition parties are able to put aside our personal differences and focus on doing what is best for our country. We cannot be fighting every day, because it trivialises the very important institution and turns Parliament into a mockery. It is understandable that we will be fighting in some instances but we must choose our battles wisely.
Where is your constituency? What has been most interesting about your constituency work so far? I’m assigned in the Beaufort-West middle drift area in the Eastern Cape. I have specifically worked with Dell in opening a computer centre at one of the high schools in my constituency area and we were also able to get teachers to attend a training course for computer literacy. We were also able to work with City Press and Nedbank in the opening of a library which focused mainly on financial literacy. I am working with a number of stakeholders and donors that would help to build a high school in my village, Mnqaba village, because the children there still have to walk about 4-5km to school.
What are you passionate about? This applies to both in a political/professional and personal? I am very passionate about education and 90% of the projects that I have done either in Cape Town or in the Eastern Cape are centred on education. I know the value of education, because I started off as a cleaner and then went on to become a security officer working night shift while studying at the same time. President Zuma at some point put in nicely that “education serves as the ladder out of poverty for many people”.
What would your message to South Africans be? We are not a homogenous group of people, because we come from a very divisive political past. We have differences as individuals but what binds us together is that we are one nation and we have a shared vision for the future and our common destiny. If we are serious about building a winning nation, we have to understand that all of us have an important role to play in building a South Africa we all look forward to in the future.
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