What is your political background? How did you come to join your political party and become an MP? It started in 2002, when I was working for a Catholic Church-run local clinic as a member of the board. As a member of the Roman Catholic Church, I was elected by the people of the area of Blaauwbosch in Newcastle. This is where my passion for politics started. I was spotted by an ANC councillor who had, at that point, defected to the DA. He saw my contribution and approached me, saying that the DA needs someone like me who is a hard worker and who is not expecting to get something in return. I said I would consider the request. As time passed, I was approached numerous times. The DA was looking for a coordinator, someone who would ensure that there is political activity happening on the ground. A vacancy had become available and at that stage I was not working but I was active on the ground. I started working for the DA as a coordinator. I was appointed on a number of committees on the ground. I was the chairperson of the Youth Desk and the secretary of the Community Police Forum. I was also involved in a project initiated by the Roman Catholic Church which attempted to address the question of access to water as people had a problem accessing water. I visited different communities to identify what could be done for the community in order to ensure that they have access to water. In some of the areas, Jojo tanks and sand pipes were installed. I grew popular with the people in the area. I was working with the IFP councillor at that point since one cannot do anything without the consent of the councillor. I was appointed Office Manager of the region after working as a coordinator, after which I became the Regional Manager. Then I became the Constituency Executive Officer. There was vacancy in the local municipality. I went for an interview and was elected as a councillor.
What does your job as an MP entail? Being engaged in various portfolio committees where the Committee looks at the entities which fall within its portfolio and the legislation presented to the committee by the relevant Minister. I also take up issues at local municipal level in my constituency work. Most of the issues dealt with by the committee falls within the jurisdiction of the local municipalities. It entails going to communities, door-to-door within communities, and determining what the issues are. These issues would be brought to the attention of the local councillors, which would then be taken to the municipality. Public or street meetings would then be convened. For example, over the weekend there was a street meeting in Ward 8 in Abaqulusi local municipality, where I visited families who live in landfill sites effected by housing issues and the constant air pollution in the area. An appointment with the Mayor was arranged and he will approach the Municipal Manager just to see what the municipal plans are in so far as the allocation of housing is concerned. I wanted to have the discussion with the Municipal Manager to see if he is aware that more than 250 families live in the municipality’s landfill site.
What are you finding most challenging about the Fifth Parliament? What obstacles prevent Parliament from doing its work and how would you fix it? While, in the past, the glaring issues of corruption, and the ruling party using and abusing its majority status in Parliament, have been a great cause for concern, there has been willingness by some of the members of the ruling party to speak out against wrongdoing in SOEs like the SABC. South Africa is moving forward as a country. Whatever happens in Parliament translates from the grassroots level. People are now starting to take Parliament seriously. I am proud to say that as a member of the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs, regardless of the political party to which you belong, you do what needs to be done. What is right is right and what is wrong is wrong.
Which constituency office have you been assigned to? What has been interesting about your constituency work? My constituency is in It is Zululand West, which incorporates the eDumbe, AbaQulusi, and Ulundi local municipalities. Immediately, when I arrived, I realised that there were people living in the landfill site. It was the ANC and the IFP that was running the municipality. This was my first concern when I arrived in my constituency. There were other issues which I have escalated to the MEC for Human Settlements, Mr Ravi Pillay. There are people who live in RDP houses who are not supposed to be occupying those RDP houses. It was brought to my attention that there are teachers and other officials who live in RDP houses who earn well above the threshold. I tried to raise awareness of this issue but it was brushed under the carpet. I am trying to revive this issue. My area was also affected by a huge drought. We, as a party, identified the elderly people in that area. We donated wheelbarrows to Ward 5 for the elderly to be able to carry water. We drive the issue to ensure that there are sand pipes that are installed in the area. It is an on-going issue because it cannot be resolved once-off.
Does Parliament do a good job at holding the Executive to account? What can be done to improve Parliament’s capacity to hold the Executive to account? Definitely, the recent turn of events in the country is cause for hope. That said, there are still some Ministers sitting in Parliament who occupy positions that they are not supposed to be occupying. If you have a Speaker who is not bias, it will be possible to hold the Executive to account. He or she will be doing her job as a Speaker of Parliament, not a Speaker of the ruling Party. That will strengthen Parliament. It is also important to have the right individuals who are heading Government Business and are dedicated to the cause of the Country. Therefore, the person who heads Government Business and the Speaker of Parliament are key positions in Government that can strengthen the role of Parliament.
Are you happy with the proportional representation system? Do you favour electoral reform? Personally, I think that a constituency-based system, where all the representatives are elected by their constituency, will strengthen accountability and ensure that their representatives work hard to deliver on their mandate.
Is Parliament’s public participation model adequate and robust enough that it affords enough public participation before a law is passed? The current system, honestly, does not adequately give people enough information before they even have a chance to give their inputs. Most of the time the language of communication does not resonate with the individuals engaged in public participation. For example, when the Spatial Planning Bill was available for public comment, in Cape Town, most of the citizens who attended these proceedings were Afrikaans and the presentation was in English. The people were up in arms because they could not understand the English terminology. It is important to work on using the local languages. There were also public consolations in KwaZulu-Natal, Empangeni. The Marine Spatial Bill was presented mostly in English again. This did not give people enough confidence to contribute confidently and be well-versed in what the Bill is all about. There were people complaining about fishing rights whereas the Marine Spatial Planning Bill was about something completely different compared to the contribution that the people were giving. We need to give the people the information well in advance and ensure that local languages are used so that the people can understand and express themselves. Currently, we are doing it in order to comply and not to give effect to the public consultation that is required to incorporate the inputs into the legislation.
Personally and politically, what are you passionate about? I would like to see that I made someone’s life better. Once you try to break the cycle of poverty and make someone’s life better, you feel good that at least you helped that individual. This is not only for that individual, however, but for future generations. For example, it is possible that this is the second generation that was born on the landfill site. They have nowhere else to go. Even the schools are too far away. Without access to education, they are unable to move themselves out of that poverty cycle. If I can break that cycle and then move them to a better place through the use of the processes that are available, that would make me a happy man.
What is your message to South Africans? I will encourage all South Africans to ensure that they are registered to vote. The ballot box is where all South Africans can hold politicians accountable. If a politician promised you Y, Y and Z and he or she does not deliver, vote for someone else who is going to deliver. South Africans have that power. You have the right as a South African to fire Hadebe or anybody. People must use the power that they have to hire and fire politicians at any given time.
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