What is your political background? How did you come to join your political party and become an MP? Both my parents were political activists. My mother grew up in Lembede Street in Orlando West in Soweto. Lembede Street is just a street above Ngakane Street where Nelson and Winnie Mandela lived and which is now called Mandela Legacy House. My father was an ANC courier during its days of underground activism during the apartheid regime. I only became active in 1987 when my house was raided and my two siblings (Lesedi and Arthur) were taken away. Lesedi was tortured by the Special Branch and returned home with Arthur staying incarcerated longer. At the time I was at Timeleni Primary School in Elukwatini, Mpumalanga.
In high school, after the unbanning of the ANC in 1990, I became part of the Learner Representative Council (LRC) at Bantfwabethu Secondary School in the same region of Mpumalanga. At the same time I became a member of The Congress of South African Students (COSAS) as well as an activist in the ANCYL. In 1994 I was elected into the provincial structure of COSAS in Mpumalanga as deputy secretary. In 1998 at Pretoria Technikon, I chaired the South African Students Congress (SASCO) body after reclaiming student representative leadership at that institution. In 1999, I became employed at Telkom where I also joined The Communication Workers' Union of South Africa (CWU). I was elected deputy chairperson of the CWU branch in the Nelspruit region.
In 2002-2003 at the conference of the SACP we were given a task to establish Young Communist League (YCL) branches. As part of the provincial task team I continued leading in establishing those branches, especially in the Gert Sibande District Municipality. To that end I became one of the first district secretaries of the YCL in Mpumalanga between 2003 and 2004.
In 2002 I had left Telkom and became self employed and in 2005 I was employed by the Department of Social Development (DSD). Immediately I joined the National Health Education & Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU). In 2007 I moved to the Chief Albert Luthuli Local Municipality as its spokesperson. During that time I had joined the South African Municipal Workers' Union (SAMWU).
In 2008 I was elected the provincial treasurer of the ANCYL in Mpumalanga and as the 2009 elections took place the following year, I was then deployed to Parliament after the elections.
What does your job as an MP entail? In 2009 I was deployed to the portfolio committees on Communication and that of Higher Education and Training. I also was an alternate at the Portfolio Committee of Public Works and the ICT focus group of Parliament. The ICT focus committee mainly focuses on the competence of all MPs when working with computers and all manner of new technological gadgets and devices and ensuring that they are capacitated in the use of such technologies. In 2010 I was redeployed to remain at Higher Education and Training but was also deployed to the newly re-established Portfolio Committee on Energy. After the 2014 general elections I was deployed to the Portfolio Committee on Transport.
On Mondays I am at my constituency until midday where after I travel to Cape Town in the afternoon. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and sometimes on Fridays we sit as the Transport Committee in the mornings. In the afternoons of Tuesday and Wednesday there are plenary sessions of the National Assembly Chamber. On Thursday mornings I attend the ANC caucus meetings.
What are you finding most challenging about the Fifth Parliament? In the Fifth Parliament the morality of Parliament has been greatly eroded by how Members currently behave towards one another. Whatever change others could be saying they have brought to the National Assembly, it cannot be acceptable that the change includes disrespect between and amongst Members.
What obstacles prevent Parliament from doing its work and how would you fix it? Sometimes media coverage makes opposition parties change how they behave in the Chamber as compared to how we work together in committee meetings. MPs have different intentions apart from doing the work of Parliament and it becomes difficult to manage those different characters. There are those one feels are here to destroy and those that are here to build. The Fifth Parliament’s biggest impact has been to get the public to follow proceedings on television, which is a sign of a growing democracy and participatory citizenry. However, some Members’ sometimes can breed and lead to young people disrespecting their elders.
Which constituency office have you been assigned to? Can you give examples of constituency work you engaged in? I have been assigned the Elukwatini constituency, in Mpumalanga. Since 2009 part of the work we have done was to build a home for a child headed house hold in my constituency. Currently we have been distributing wheelchairs and blankets to the elderly. We are also planning to furnish one of the best performing schools in my constituency with a science lab. Because my constituency is semi-rural we deal a lot with abuse of farm workers, land claims and so forth. Currently I am mediating between two traditional leaders which are disputing who the legitimate traditional leader is.
Does Parliament do a good job of holding the Executive to account? If not, what can be done to improve this? I think Parliament does its best to hold the Executive to account. I appreciate the previous and current Speakers of Parliament who ensured that Ministers attend committee meetings because there was a point when they did not attend and the Speakers intervened.
Are you happy with the proportional representation system or are you in favour of electoral reform? The current system is adequate because it gives opportunity for minority voices to be represented in Parliament.
Is Parliament’s public participation model adequate/robust enough that it affords enough public participation before a law is passed? The model can certainly be improved though currently we do our utmost in reaching as many stakeholders as possible. The challenge is the lack of funding when we want public consultation regarding laws during their development. During the AARTO bill there had been a time the taxi and trucking industry could not comment as they had not been informed. We then had to extend the time for public consultation where we transported representatives of both components of the public transport sector.
What are you passionate about? This applies both in a political/professional arena as well as personally? My biggest passion is being a motivational speaker/coach as I am a person who loves contributing to the betterment of other people’s lives.
What is your message to South Africans? South Africans have to realise that attainment of democracy was not easy. From my experience the ANC through the short history of democracy, has beneficiated South Africans immensely. Competition between the ruling party and the official opposition intensified when the DA won the Western Cape Province and I thought they would change the lives of the people of that province. Alas, only the lives of the minority were enhanced which is disappointing. Because of internal challenges within ANC there has been a public perception created that the ANC is corrupt and a law unto itself. The ANC has changed the lives of many South Africans; the challenge that remains is that, either people do not acknowledge, not do they appreciate what has been done in their interest. Housing and shelter was addressed by the government of the ANC, but the recipients of free housing and free water and sanitation complains that the ANC has done nothing. The ANC remains relevant and most of the challenges facing the party will, post the December conference, be a thing of the past and a better leadership will emerge.
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