What is your political background? I grew up in Atteridgeville. I went to the Transvaal College of Education in 1981 and I was in the leadership of the student movement. I became the president of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) for a period of twelve years. I was part of the mass freedom campaign that was led by the United Democratic Front (UDF) that was found in 1985 and this was a political movement that was aimed at the liberation of black people. I became the national president of the Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU) in 1999 and I ran the organisation for nine years. I moved out of the structures of the Alliance after nine years and then became involved in the South African Communist Party (SACP). I moved out of SACP because of many problems which are already known in the general public. I was one of the people that founded the Congress of the People (COPE) and many people do not believe that we were actually five when we started COPE. There were of course challenges after the formation of the party. There were 37 Members of Parliament when we began but this number had been dwindling because of many challenges.
What does your job as an MP entail? My job as an MP involves many things including attending portfolio committees. My intention when we started was to attend committees that are labour related. However, after the departure of a number of MPs, I was forced to not only deal with issues that are labour related but communications as well. I go back from time to time and interact with our members and collate all the information required and sometimes even going to workers themselves. I know that most of the workers are not paid as much as they should be and in some instances they get beaten up.
What is your impression of the Fifth Parliament so far? The Fifth Parliament so far is terrible as it is not the kind of parliament that we fought for during the struggle. This is because the leadership of the President, Mr Jacob Zuma has become terrible. It is clear that the leadership of President Zuma is not taking us anywhere. I was part and parcel of the people who prepared a plan in 2011 on what needed to be done to take South Africa forward in at least the next 20 years. It surprises me that even those people whom I planned the future of our country with had also gone down. There is a growing culture of people who are willing to take as much as they can from public funds. It is shocking to see the high number of people who are still living in poverty.
I was one of the people who went to see the late former president Nelson Mandela on South Africa's job creation prospects. We reached an agreement that government, labour unions and businesses will come together. In 1999, workers were also prompted to pay one day's wages to a fund and I was the chairperson of that fund for twelve years. The fund at that time grew to R89 million and this was a lot of money then and I was able to create about 40 000 jobs from that fund. I took a huge portion of that R89 million and invested it so that it could accumulate. The money managed to accumulate to more than R60 million although I had already spent more than R49 million.
Where is your constituency? What is most interesting about your constituency so far? I am assigned to the whole country as the Deputy President of COPE. I am forced to run around the whole country because of the minimal number of seats we have as COPE. I would never claim any individual victory as everything should be done collaboratively. It is clear that people in the past were hungry but at least they could find some job to do and earn a living. I’m particularly disappointed that I have not done more to reduce the scourge of unemployment in the country.
What are you passionate about? This applies in both a political/professional and personal? I’m a very boring person but I was a professional boxer in 1979 although I could not go further because much of my focus was on politics. I want to see the people of our country flourishing. I could have gone out and taken whatever “gifts” on offer or any diplomatic post with a lucrative salary but I was not interested. I come from a particular ideology of communism which is premised on putting people first. My main focus is to see the working class and the poor being able to survive.
What would your message to South Africans be? It is clear that a lot of South Africans do not know where we come from as a country. People who fought for this country want unity and a proper Constitution that will protect the vulnerable. There are some people within the ANC with whom we fought with against apartheid such as Mr Cyril Ramaphosa who was present during the formation of our Constitution. Our national anthem is clear that we as South Africans need to be equal and this should be emphasised on a daily basis. The country cannot afford to go back and undo what had already been achieved. I was part of those who led the International Trade Union movement and I have gone to 54 countries giving speeches on the need for South Africa to maintain unity through the inclusion of the poor and the working class in the economy. The country should be able to prioritise the redistribution of wealth and this cannot simply be done by expropriating whatever was dispossessed in the past.
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