What is your political background? My political awakening started in the early 80’s when I was in secondary school. Teachers affiliated with underground ANC structures mobilised us into the Young Christian Movement (YCM) of Botshabelo in Bloemfontein in 1979. In 1983 when the United Democratic Front (UDF) was established it coincided with the mass mobilisation of students under the umbrella of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS). The 1985 repression of any political activity in schools deepened our political thought and understanding of what kind of organisation was needed.
In 1986 we established the Botshabelo Students Congress (BOSCO) and the Botshabelo Youth Congress (BOYCO) after the banning of COSAS. In 1987 when the South African Youth Congress (SAYCO) was formed, it was on the basis and backbone of community youth congresses which were already in existence.
In 1988 I became the organising secretary of SAYCO’s Botshabelo branch and I also volunteered in organising the establishment of the Garment and Allied Workers Union (GAWU) focusing on the textile industrial area in Bloemfontein and Botshabelo. In 1990 I was re-elected to be the interim convener of the process of transitioning and formation of the ANCYL in Botshabelo and also became the first regional chairperson of the ANCYL in southern Free State. I served as regional chairperson until 1994 when the Free State ANCYL was reintegrated into one structure and I was the first political education officer of the ANCYL in the Free State.
In 1996 I became the chairperson of the Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) of the ANCYL in the Free State until 1998 when I was elected into the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANCYL. In the NEC I was secretary for education, governance and legislation as the ANCYL was redefining its role in the realm of the democratic state. In 1999 I was sent to Parliament where I served in the portfolio committees on education, communication and public services.
In 2001 I was redeployed as a chief whip in the Free State Provincial Legislature until 2004. After the 2004 elections I became a Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for public works and transport in the Free State until 2009.
In 2009 I was appointed MEC for finance in the same province until 2013 when I was redeployed to Parliament again to the committee on Mineral Resources and Energy until the 2014 elections. After the national elections I was appointed chairperson of the select committee on appropriations and the ANC also appointed me to be the chairperson of its parliamentary caucus.
What does your job as an MP entail? Together with the chief whip of the party we ensure that the Thursday morning caucus takes place and that the party line is adhered to. Mondays are dedicated to party work which includes being at your parliamentary constituency office (PCO) assigned to you. That work is to ensure that the legislation we pass in Parliament finds expression and implementation at local government level. Tuesday and Wednesday mornings are committee days and I either attend a joint sitting of the national assembly or I am at the NCOP chamber in the afternoons. Fridays I return to my constituency and I also co-chair the joint committee on oversight of Parliament's finances.
What is your impression of the Fifth Parliament? The situation has changed since I started in 1999, because there were not as many parties as there are now in the opposition benches. In the ANC we have always strived to ensure that Parliament raises the voice of the people in holding the executive to account in terms of implementation of the policy position the ANC takes.
There has been quite robust engagement on matters but at times when the sittings are not properly managed, they have deteriorated into mere populist rhetoric which undermines the needs of our people.
What constituency area have you been assigned to you by your party? What has been most interesting about your constituency work so far? My constituency is in the Xhariep district of the Free State which relies heavily on agriculture and has suffered immensely since the drought.
The development of Agri-parks by the Departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Land and Rural Development has been very interesting. They focused on requisite skills to sustain the Agri-parks in my constituency. During my first stint in Parliament when Botshabelo used to be my constituency, we managed to entrench the formation of school governing bodies (SGBs), community policing forums (CPFs) and also drove campaigns on how young boys returning from initiation schools could be reintegrated back into schools and to address the drop-out rates from schools in Botshabelo at that time. Government projects, including artisanships which were driven through the Public Works Department intensified in 2004 when I became MEC for the first time.
What are you most passionate about? This applies both in a political/professional arena as well as personally. I have been in an out of higher learning institutions until I received my master’s degree through the Da Vinci Institute. Hopefully I can get another qualification through Parliament not so far into the future.
What is your message to South Africans? It is important to note that the severe effects of the 2009 recession only emerged glaringly in 2016. We are fully aware of the great need which the local government election outcomes have shown us: South Africans need jobs and are in poverty. We are aware that we need to address the matter of apartheid spatial development and be clear on the land question whilst addressing the building of one nation.
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