What is your political background? How did you come to join your political party and become an MP? I am part of the 1976 generation and I hail from a rural area in the Mopani region in Limpopo. I started school quite late at the age of 12 yrs where our language of instruction was Afrikaans by choice in some subjects, but with the blanket imposition of the Afrikaans medium problems obviously arose. Uprising against Afrikaans medium reached rural schools through student exchanges and movements between Soweto and rural communities. At some point we lost a teacher to dismissal because he had been disseminating and teaching about terrorism and politics around 1977. I finished my Junior Certificate (JC) in 1979 and moved to Johannesburg to find work.
In 1979 whilst looking for work in Braamfontein and the Johannesburg CBD I was asked to produce my dompas, but was beaten up by the security police and detained for two weeks because of a flawed dompas issued to me. Each time leaving detention one would be sent to Mortar Bay, whereupon white farmers would be invited to come and buy young and old black as farm labourers. Whilst at these farms all of the black labourers would be locked up in some shack guarded by dog units for a week labouring for no pay until the sentence was served up.
Having permanently relocated back to Giyani in the same year of ’79 I managed to get employment at Phalaborwa Mining Company on 12 December 1979. I immediately was registered with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in 1980 where I became a shopsteward and convener for NUM at that mine. I remained a NUM shopsteward until 1987 when I left the mine. In 1985 however; when The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) was launched in Port Elizabeth, I had attended as a delegate from the mine I worked at. My political education centered on communism through the United Democratic Front and the South African Communist Party (SACP). I left Phalaborwa at the end of my employment under duress because of the threats we received from fellow unionists for our union activities.
I returned to school where I finished my matric in 1989 where political activity was gaining momentum around Giyani but in a scattered fashion. Having been appointed a temporary teacher by the then homeland from 1990-1993, in 1994 comrades in the Mopani region elected me to run the first democratic elections in Mopani as a presiding officer. By this time I had joined the ANC officially on the basis of the dual membership with the SACP.
In 2000 during the first local government elections I was elected a ward councilor and immediately sent to the Mopani District Municipality. A vacancy opened up in Giyani Local Municipality and I was deployed back there in 2001. In 2002 I was appointed as a speaker for that municipality after the resignation of the municipal speaker. When ANC village branches were started in 1995, I had become a chairperson from then until 2010 when I was elected Giyani sub-regional chairperson of the ANC. I remained at the municipality until 2011.
In 2012, I attended the ANC Mangaung general conference as a branch delegate from Giyani. In 2014 during the list processes of the national and provincial elections the ANC deployed me to Parliament.
What does your job as an MP entail? When I arrived in 2014 I was deployed to the Portfolio Committee on Energy. On Mondays and Fridays I do constituency work.
On Tuesday and Wednesday mornings I either attend Energy or Higher Education portfolios so that Thursday mornings we have caucus as the ANC. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons are dedicated to plenary sessions.
What are you finding most challenging about the Fifth Parliament? Serving two masters simultaneously is not easy while also keeping up to date with educational self development. I do have to acclimatize to the digitisation of parliamentary work.
Which constituency office have you been assigned to? Can you give examples of constituency work you engaged in? My constituency is in Maroleng (Hoedspruit), Mopani district in quite a rural area, where my duty is to see to it that our people’s concerns and needs are routed to the relevant departments. Because the area is known for food production farming, our biggest crisis there is around human settlements, education and social services challenges. There were grade 12 learners without identity documents (IDs) who I am assisted to get Home Affairs to expedite the issuing of those IDs as it was key to their writing the matric exams. Moreover we are also assisting the elderly with similar issues with Home Affairs.
Does Parliament do a good job of holding the Executive to account? If not, what can be done to improve this? Not all the time because it seems to be attitudinal and depends on your age and position you occupy within the movement. There are executive members that simply dismiss you as a MP and do not want to account to us as committees sometimes when we require them. Even as AN individual MP you can submit a request from your constituency as a member of the energy portfolio and a particular Minister of Energy at that time; simply acknowledges receipt of correspondence and nothing ever comes out from that. Therefore I am not happy how Ministers account to us. In addition, the period Ministers stay as executives probably affects how they relate to us. It seems that the longer one would have been a Minister, the more entitled comrades are and seem to refuse to account to us as Parliament. If a comrade could be a Minister for one or two terms and then return to Parliament it would make them more responsive to Parliament. It will also deal with the issue of entitlement because going to the executive is through appointment by the party.
Are you happy with the proportional representation system or are you in favour of electoral reform? I would prefer for the system to be amended because there are quite a few challenges therein. One finds the PR councilor completely derelict of their duties due to the territoriality exhibited by ward councilors about how and what the PR councilor cannot do and can do within the wards assigned to both. Instead of complementing each other you find that destructive competition between councilors of the same party. I would prefer that training on how PR and ward councilors complement each other be emphasised as there are enough policies in this regard but little to no enforcement of how local government is supposed to operate. PR councilors must account for the responsibilities given them together with ward councilors to the Speaker of the said municipality.
Is Parliament’s public participation model adequate/ robust enough that it affords enough public participation before a law is passed? We can certainly allow more time and resources to go into sourcing a mandate from the public on the laws we are developing for our citizens. We could and should be using our constituencies and specific periods set aside for this to source public opinion for Bills that will affect them directly or indirectly. This would be better enabled by Parliament providing us the legal capacity to simplify the legal jargon in specific laws.
What are you passionate about? This applies both in a political/professional arena as well as personally? I am probably in the best position to fulfill all my passions in that I am of service to the people of South Africa, but if I was not a politician, I probably would have been farming.
What is your message to South Africa? South Africans should definitely vote for the ANC as current beneficiation socio-economically has been brought about through the struggle for freedom and achievement of such by the ANC. My plea is that for South Africans to not judge the entire ANC on the basis of Risimati Mavunda’s misconduct as an individual.
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