Mr Phillip Mhlongo (EFF)


What is your political background? I grew up in a Christian family. The brutal killing of my father by right-wingers in Johannesburg where he was running a very lucrative business in Braamfontein, motivated me to join politics. Life became very difficult after the passing of my father. The story of Moses in the Bible and the story of Chief Albert Luthuli inspired me to join the struggle and I became part of the 'undergrounders', assisted by Reverend Kunene of the Anglican Church in Ladysmith. The relocation to Ladysmith exposed to me to the harsh realities of the struggle and this ignited me to become involved.

I got introduced to uMkhonto weSizwe and I knew I was going to respond physically to the challenges of the time. This also created a bad situation for family as I was always away. I was asthmatic and the involvement in the struggle also led to the deterioration of my health.

I completed my matric in 1985 being part of the United Democratic Front (UDF). This created conflict between my involvement in the struggle and my Christian values as my family viewed my involvement in the struggle as violent. I was involved in the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) when it was immediately formed after the amalgamation with other trade unions. I find it interesting to see some former members of NEHAWU being in Parliament including the likes of Mr Mondli Gungubele.

When Mr Thabo Mbeki was recalled in 2007 it led to me questioning my membership of the ANC. I was totally against his removal and I had leaders like Dr Blade Nzimande even questioning whether I was a real Zulu if I supported a Xhosa President. There was nothing wrong in Thabo Mbeki requesting the current President to relinquish his position as this was per the ruling by a court judgment. I realised that the ANC had been "hijacked" when the attendants at the reburial of Moses Mabhida were ordered to leave when about to be addressed by then President Mbeki. I tendered my resignation from the ANC and I knew the repercussions of this decision as my house and car were repossessed by the banks and I was dismissed from work.

I then joined the Congress of the People (COPE) as a provincial secretary in KZN working at grassroots level where we were organising people on the ground to join the party. We thought that Mbhazima Shilowa and Mosiuoa Lekota were going to provide sterling leadership, but instead these people turned against each other and tore each other and the organisation apart. We knew that this was the dirty work of the secret intelligence organs of the State. I kept on because I knew that we had unity in KZN. I then got a call from Mr Julius Malema immediately after the formation of the EFF. Mr Malema told me that he was once asked by the Minister of State Security to destroy COPE and therefore there was no hope that COPE can succeed. We then closed down COPE in KZN and joined hands with the EFF. We organised people on the ground to vote for the EFF in the 2014 elections. We did very well in the 2014 elections where we received more than 1 million votes. I was then called by Mr Malema to become a Member of Parliament in the National Assembly.

What does my job as an MP entail? My role as a Member of the EFF is to represent our people irrespective of their partisanships and this is my main responsibility. I do not like political grandstanding even when I attend the Portfolio Committee on Police. My role should be as constructive as possible and I will never turn a blind eye to wrongdoing. People treat political parties as their homes and this was not right, because it makes people turn a blind eye to wrongdoing.

Do you think Parliament is playing an effective role in holding the Executive to Account? If not, what can be done? Gradually, I think Parliament is coming alive. Parliament has failed our people big time because of the electorate system. There are people who hide behind narrow partnership and failing to actually interpret the statute that empowers Members of Parliament to hold the Executive to account. There are many inquires at the moment because of the rot in State Owned Entities (SOEs). The EFF was clear that the ANC needed to remove President Zuma as the party had nothing to lose but everything to gain. I supported the overthrow of the government in Zimbabwe as people of Zimbabwe showed that they had more power than the sitting President.

What is your impression of the Fifth Parliament so far? The introduction of the EFF in Parliament has changed the operation of Parliament. People initially viewed the EFF as a disruptive organisation, but all those issues that had been raised by our leadership have come to the surface. The rot within the ruling party was clearly deeper than perceived. The old MPs from the ruling party are no longer sleeping in Parliament.

Where is your constituency? What has been most interesting about your constituency so far? My constituency is in Pietermaritzburg. I have not been in my constituency for very long time, because in the EFF we are deployed everywhere especially as national Members of Parliament. I believe that I should serve the national interests and not just the regional interests. I can see a steady growth of the EFF in KZN and we have actually advised the leadership of the EFF to be patient as people in the area are still loyal to their political parties.

What are you passionate about? This applies both in a political/professional and personal? I am passionate about country music and I even asked my daughter to download country music for me as I like the acoustic guitar and the message that goes with the music. I also like classical music and you will find a collection of classic music in my music library. Music really keeps me going as it is another way of talking to myself.

What is your message to South Africans? I believe that people like Nelson Mandela paved the direction that should be taken by South Africa when he said “there are good men and women in all political parties constituting our democratic dispensation in our country, and our duty as leaders is to identify these good women and men and take our country forward, irrespective of our partisanships”. Mandela went on to say that “there are also bad men and women in all political parties constituting our democratic dispensation and our duty is to identify these bad men and women and put them into dungeon”. We can no longer accept the situation where black people only smell the meat that is being cooked, remaining spectators without participating in the economy. Steve Biko taught us about black consciousness and the need to be conscious of who we are. Our ancestors were creative and able to plough fields using different methods way before the arrival of white people. We should not study simply to be employed by white men but also be innovative and bring about our own genius.

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