How did you become involved in politics and particularly, what drew you to your specific party? My political party is the African National Congress. I joined the ANC in my hometown in KwaMashu, KZN. During that period, there were UDF committees before the unbanning of the ANC I was asked to serve on a peace committee trying to bring about peace in the area, especially the K Section and J section in KwaMashu. Lindelani at the time was an informal settlement and in those years, the largest political party in Lindelani was the IFP.
There were clashes between UDF supporters and IFP supporters. There were also killings that took place. I was elected by the residents to be a representative in a peace committee. Over and above that, at some stage there was a group called AmaSinyora, which was also involved in the killing of community members. There were allegations that these people were working with the Apartheid police who was terrorising the community. There was also another informal settlement nearby established after Lindelani which was called Siyanda informal settlement. The majority of people in Siyanda were mostly supporters of the IFP. There was also a women’s organisation called the Natal Organisation of Women (NOW), affiliated to the UDF which we were recruited as UDF members and later became active, particularly during a march against the violence which was taking place in the township, from KwaMashu Railway station to the E section police station’s township office manager.
After the unbanning of the ANC, we were advised by the UDF to become active within ANC structures. We were identified to be on the interim structures of the ANC which were working on mobilising and recruiting new membership of the ANC. I served on interim structures in KwaMashu, focussing on recruiting females to join the ANC and the ANCWL. We did this voluntarily whilst continuing with private employment. We did this until the first conference of the ANC after its unbanning, which was in Durban at the then University of Durban Westville. This is where former President Nelson Mandela was elected. While hosting, we were called by the team which was appointed by the national head office of the ANC to come and work in KZN. Such a team included members who came from Robben Island and from exile and those operating within South Africa in UDF structures. We were then recruited to leave employment and work full-time for the ANC in the political organising department. This occurred around 1990/91. I was employed by the ANC on a full-time basis for 7 years thereafter as an organiser.
From mid 1997, I resigned because I believed the ANC had strong structures. I joined the local authority in Pinetown for two years in the development section of the Inner West Local Council, which was responsible for providing housing opportunities and building houses via government subsidies. I was then called by the organisation to be in the Legislature. While this happened, I never really got a break. While serving on the structures and being an organiser, I was also serving on the Regional Executive Committee of the ANCWL. At some stage I got to be the Acting Deputy Secretary and Secretary.
We went to the Legislature for five years. During my time (1999-2004), the ANC was not in power. Toward the end of the second term, I was elected as the Provincial Deputy Chairperson of the ANCWL. Comrade Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma was the chairperson of the province and the Minister of International Relations at the time. She would do a lot of traveling and at times, she would not be able to represent the province. The NEC then took a decision that because of these reasons, I ought to come to the NEC and represent the province. At a later stage, I was then elected as the chairperson of the ANCWL. I was the Chairperson until March 2012 and got elected to the ANC PEC in May 2012; and later in the year was elected to the NEC ANC for five years.
What does your job as an MP entail? When I got here, I was appointed as the Whip of the ANC study group. This entailed ensuring that the ANC component does attend meetings, they prepare for meetings and that the policies, resolutions and contributions of the ANC are taken on board. I served in that capacity for three and a half years since 2014 until the end of October last year, where I was elected as Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises. My task as a Chairperson is to facilitate the meetings together with the support team that is provided by Parliament such as the Committee Secretary, the Researcher, Content Advisor, the Legal Advisor and the Media Liaison Officer. With this support, one is able to prepare for the meetings and the nature of the meetings to make sure that the Department of Public Enterprises comes and accounts before Parliament. The Portfolio Committee plays an oversight role for the Department as well as all entities of the Department of Public Enterprises. I chair these meetings, ensuring that all Members are able to interact with the respective participants.
What are you finding most challenging about the Fifth Parliament? There was a change in the political atmosphere of Parliament. When Parliament started, there was general respect for the House. The culture of heckling (which is allowed) was not a norm. I remember when the IFP was leading the Legislature, there were tensions, but not to the extent that we wanted to get physical. This was probably because there were committees which were set up to manage the political atmosphere, set up by the likes of Mandela and Buthelezi at a national level. This then cascaded to the provincial level. The representative of a political party in the Legislature would get direction from leadership. What I have learnt as a relatively new Member of Parliament, having joined in 2014 from the Legislature is that one has to familiarise themselves with legislation and how things are done in the National Assembly.
What obstacles prevent Parliament from doing its work and how would you fix it? The time allocated to Members in the National Assembly and the time members get to be active in their constituencies tend to pose some problems. At times political parties want to focus on a particular program taking place in the constituency. However, this tends to clash with a program taking place in Parliament. We are told that prior to 94’, Parliament used to run for six months full-time. One then had the other 6 months for their constituency and province back home. The outcry has been that MPs are in Parliament for long periods of time and spend little time with their constituencies. The current system could be merged or structured in a way in which it could converge to the former system. It is challenging to maneuver between one’s responsibilities in Parliament and one’s constituency. Travelling arrangements in between such as accessing connecting flights from areas which are in remote places (which usually involve driving for a few hours before one gets to the airport) are a part of this challenge.
Do you think Parliament does a good job at holding the Executive to account? If not, what can be done to improve this? I think it does. There is hardly a week in which there are no committee meetings. It is very rare that there are no sittings. If Parliament is in session, you will have committees working during the week, in the morning and sittings in the afternoon. Some committees work every day.
Are you happy with the proportional representation system or are you in favour of electoral reform? My organisation is still happy with the proportional representation system. However, the proportional government system poses a problem at local government level. This has been the case for some time now. This is an example of why the DA is unhappy with what happened at Nelson Mandela Bay. However, even prior to that, the ANC was also unhappy with the DA taking the Johannesburg metro and the Tshwane Metro. At the time, the ANC won the majority of votes; in fact the majority of votes are still with the ANC. But because of the formula, the DA had received a higher number of PR councillors. With other smaller parties such as the EFF and UDM they could then form a government. They have taught us well as the ANC: you can form a coalition and leave out the party which has received the majority of votes. That has worked against them (DA) in Nelson Mandela Bay. It’s a bitter pill, but they have to swallow it.
Is Parliament’s public participation model adequate or robust enough that it affords enough public participation before a law is passed? I think so because if the public participation model was not in place, people would not be able to reach out to Parliament. I say this because it would only be people who have resources in terms of the tools of trade and have networks in their areas who would be able to communicate, and those who could not afford this would be left behind. Those who don’t have access to Information Technology would not be able to make submissions to Parliament; their voices would not be heard. By virtue of going to communities and conducting public hearings, it assists even people who are in deep, rural areas to come to a particular venue which has been identified and is closer to them, and local municipalities can assist with transportation. They can then come to the meetings and raise their concerns. This is a good approach.
What are you passionate about? This applies both in a political/professional arena as well as personally? I love music. I enjoy different types of music, both South African and international music such as that of the late Aretha Franklin and Miriam Makeba. Apart from going to meetings, I enjoy movies. I also enjoy reading newspapers and magazines, just to stimulate the mind and to remain updated. Sometimes I like to take a drive and go the beach. I walk around, enjoying the sights and sounds of the sea: the waves and the breeze from the ocean.
What is your message to South Africa? If our people can bear with us, in light of unhappiness with something at local, provincial or national government level, by not destroying what has been built, it would be a step in the right direction. When you are not happy about the delivery of houses, the provision of electricity and water or the upgrading of roads, it doesn’t assist to go and burn down schools. We are all here and are able to make a contribution because we were given the opportunity by our parents to go to school. Everybody has to start at school in order to be something in future. School is very important, even at Grade R level, kindergarten or crèche and early childhood education centres. Don’t burn those facilities. The community hall, libraries etc are all important. When we grew up in the townships, we never had libraries, but today we have libraries. To burn those facilities is really counter-productive. Their availability enables children to access books and encourages a culture of reading. When such a facility is burnt down, the local municipality or province has to allocate more resources financially from the budget, to rebuild infrastructure which has been destroyed. Furthermore, one can’t implement everything over a three or five year period. That is why the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) processes at local government level are very important.
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