What is your political background? I went to a high school that was very politically inclined and I was heavily involved in political debates and community youth movements to fight the apartheid regime. I then left the country to study abroad in Saudi Arabia where there were also anti-apartheid movements and I involved myself in those movements. I got involved in politics when I came back just before the negotiations and I joined the ANC. In 1999 I moved from the ANC and joined the Democratic Party (DP) with the aim to become a Councillor in the City of Cape Town in 2000.
I joined the DP with the intention of balancing power, because no party should have absolute power. There should be a strong opposition party that would robustly challenge the ruling party. When a party suddenly attains absolute power corruption thrives and this is exactly what is happening in our country at the moment. It is so sad to see the ruling party that fought for liberation being disintegrated by looting and corruption.
In 2000 the DP joined with the National Party to form the Democratic Alliance (DA). There were many internal conflicts at the time and this was not managed well to the point that we ended up losing the City of Cape Town and I became a Councillor in Athlone. In 2004 the DA managed to win back the City of Cape Town. I was asked to serve in the Provincial Legislature in 2009 and this is where I served in different portfolios where most of my focus was on education, sports, and arts and culture.
In 2009, we were the ruling party in the Western Cape and I was appointed as speaker of Parliament. In 2012 I came to the National Assembly where I have been serving in the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans.
What does my job as an MP entail? The job of parliamentarians is to deal with legislation and it includes writing or approving legislation from the Executive or sometimes even Members of Parliament. There are other legislations that are initiated through petitioning or private bills that would be considered. We also play an oversight role over the Executive and this is done through attending committee meetings and asking questions. We also have to ensure that a Minister of a particular portfolio is held accountable for the performance of that year and the implementation of the five year Strategic Plan. Our job is to interrogate, criticise and ensure that there are improvements and the weaknesses are dealt with accordingly. The oversight is not only limited to the Executive as we also go on international trips in order to gain international best practices that could be incorporated in our government departments.
What is your impression of the Fifth Parliament so far? I think the whole mood of Parliament has changed in the fifth term and I think there is now more radical engagement that is taking place. The EFF has certainly added its own dimension and the DA has also adopted a slightly different approach or routine by also protesting, petitioning and taking people to courts. This change in approach has been caused by the serious irregularities in the system and the economic downturn the country is facing. We also worry about the almost 9 million unemployed people and these are the type of socio-economic conditions which have also added to how Parliament is operating.
There is a genuine need to address the grievances of people on the ground. The shrinking budget that is allocated to government departments has also been a challenge in the Fifth Parliament and it is difficult for most departments to prioritise job creation and economic development. We should try and minimise corruption so that a huge chunk of budget can go to the citizens and the ratepayers of this country. It was shocking to hear that almost R20 billion was lost through irregular expenditure.
Where is your constituency? What is most interesting about your constituency work? My constituency is Athlone. There are black people in one specific area and coloured people in other areas and even Indians in some parts. The racial groupings in the area are one of the legacies of apartheid. My constituency has very poor people and also those who are affluent or live comfortable lives. It is always our responsibility as Members of Parliament to promote diversity to avoid the divisive “race card” that is often used to further polarise the country. I am involved in a number of projects in my constituency that are focused on socio-economic development and public participation.
What are you passionate about? This applies in both in a political/professional and personal arena? I am passionate about community development and I consider myself an activist. I will continue to serve my community and the projects I am involved in are aimed at promoting my country and constituency. I am very passionate about ensuring that government is able to create jobs for the people to improve their living conditions. It is important to inform our communities about opportunities that are available like bursaries or funding that are designed to break the vicious cycle of poverty.
What would your message to South Africans be? We have to take responsibility for our country and government has an important role to play by ensuring that our country is safe and secure. We should be proud to be South Africans as there are many opportunities that are available out there. We expect government as the representative of the people to fulfill all the promises that had been made and it is very important for us to take voting very seriously. The general rule should be that whoever delivers the best service to our people and the country should be the one given a vote. Let us put our country first before our petty political interests.
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