Ms Ntombovuyo Mente (EFF)

Dec. 4, 2017 (2 weeks ago)

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What is your political background? How did you come to join your political party and become an MP? I am from Cofimvaba where I read for my basic education. During my high school there had been an incident at my school involving a teacher and a student. We had been then identified as problematic students for wanting to protect that male student from excessive corporal punishment. The Congress of South African Students (COSAS) had been introduced at the school but never became active and at the time I was not part of any political student structures in the school. Another incident occurred in the same year where a school mate was attacked by a teacher on our way back from a singing competition. Ultimately it turned out one girl had almost been raped and another was actually raped by two teachers on that same trip and I made sure the whole school stood still so that those incidences could be attended to. Because of the times, rape was a taboo subject and we didn’t know how and when to get the police involved.

When I got to tertiary at the current Walter Sisulu University, I developed a real appreciation for politics though I did not affiliate with any student structure.

From 2000-2003 when I started working at the Civic Center in Cape Town, there had been divisions amongst the security personnel of which I was a part of where treatment by municipal staff was different for security employed by the City of Cape Town and private security. I unconsciously started challenging that status quo of separate lunch quarters and other amenities for private versus public security personnel. I became an informal shop steward for my colleagues and was a go between for them and the company we were all employed by.

In 2004 I joined the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU). Only in 2008 did I again take up politics again when I was promoted and white colleagues were questioning my promotion in Woodstock SAPS. Issues again reached a point where allocation of resources was not equitable and I challenged that status quo. White detectives could get to work at 10 am and leave to fetch their kids from school in the afternoons, during working hours but black detectives and other policing sections with black SAPS officials had to keep proper times, and behaved differently from their white counterparts. Privileges simply applied and were allowed differently across racial lines at that police station.

In 2010, I was suspended for 8 months for a minor issue. At the time I was serving in the local sector of POPCRU where I was able to visit 32 police stations. At the end of 2010 when I returned to work the station commander was removed through the work of POPCRU and across the remaining 31 stations where POPCRU had a presence station commanders were changed.

In 2012, I realised that POPCRU focused on one sector and at the time I was a regional leader in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in the Khayelitsha region of Cape Town. In that structure we dealt with other sectors including security personnel, domestic workers together with the assistance of a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) called Workers World Media productions. We also realised that POPCRU national and provincial leadership were scheming in that they failed at every bargaining chamber though their private interests were excelling. We started fighting with the leadership and were then expelled from POPCRU and COSATU in the 2012 conference which had been rigged initially.

In 2013 when the EFF was formed I saw at a press conference someone whom I knew as a correctional services official in the Overberg district who had also been a shop steward with me at POPCRU. I called him afterwards to find out what was happening and he explained and gave a future date when the Commander In Chief (CIC) Julius Malema and the Deputy President, Floyd Shivambu of the EFF would be visiting the Western Cape. I went to that meeting in Hermanus where the EFF held its first meeting in the province. The interim provincial structure of the WC of the EFF was established there where two days later there was a policy which we attended and the policy spoke directly to me and the issues which I believed in so much.

What does your job as an MP entail? My work takes me everywhere since I am now a national leader of the EFF. I am a war council member, which is the highest decision making structure in the party. On Tuesday mornings I attend committees: SCOPA, Auditor-General, Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament (JSFMP), Ethics, and Powers and Privileges. From there I have to ensure that everything that is on the order paper for the afternoon has been attended to as I am a party whip together with Ms Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi.

On a Wednesday morning is SCOPA work again so that Thursday mornings will be set aside for caucus. On Friday, if there is no committee meeting I deal with constituency work in the entire Mpumalanga province or doing intervention right through the weekend.

What are you finding most challenging about the Fifth Parliament? It is certainly not what I imagined it to be. I thought it was a dignified and honest place to work at apart from it being a popular place to watch on television. Acclimatising to how law making happens has been an experience that I had to adjust to fast. The biggest challenge I struggle with is the misleading statements made by ruling party executive authorities and MPs. I don’t understand how people get salaried so much and that they develop such greed or dig themselves so much into debt that they have to steal from the poor.

Which constituency office have you been assigned to? Can you give examples of constituency work you engaged in? Because I am a national leader I preside over a province. I convene deployees to Mpumalanga from the Central Command Team (CCT). Mondays are war council days of the EFF in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. From Friday through the weekend I deal with constituency work.

Two weeks ago, through interaction with communities, I learned one can still find families in Mpumalanga living in makeshift shelters of wool bags and plastic covering though they vote. Fortunately in the same week we handed over flushing toilets to those with housing and are still lobbying ours sponsors to build homes for these people living in make shift shelter. Apart from human settlements, water and sanitation I have found the Members of Executive Councils (MECs) in Mpumalanga to be quite useless because it is better to go straight to the Minister of Human Settlements. However, the protocol and line of reporting going all the way down can be frustrating and strenuous though sometimes the Department does prioritise complaints.

There was a case of a 72 year old woman who lived with a disabled 14 year old whom she used to take to the day clinic on her back with no nurses or anyone noticing the extraordinariness of the situation, until we intervened. They lived in a one roomed dwelling and the child had no wheelchair and there was not even a ramp for a wheelchair at the clinic. The child had never been to school, could not read, but could talk.

Does Parliament do a good job of holding the Executive to account? If not, what can be done to improve this? Only to the extent that the security personnel have to be called to expunge us from the chamber because the country is not progressing at all. We are stuck in one place and the only way forward is to go back to Freedom Charter document which used to guide the tripartite alliance.

Are you happy with the proportional representation system or are you in favour of electoral reform? There is no problem with the current system, because if we were to change, it would limit people’s votes and voices. South Africans are not aware how the three spheres of government work and how accessible they are to citizens.

What can be done better regarding Parliament's current public participation model? More educational drives need to be done about what legislatures are there for and the rights of citizens in accessing government services across all spheres of government.

There is enough resources to do public participation but the public participation model and its implementation is sorely lacking because I do not see why we have to be in parliament weekly when we could rotate our time between being here one week and at constituencies another week. This current national government governance system favors paperwork more than being on the ground in communities and delivering services to South Africans.

What is your message to South Africa? South Africans need to read the Freedom Charter and conscientise themselves about what SA was supposed to have looked like after apartheid was dismantled. They should ask themselves why that has not happened and who should take the blame for that not being realised to date.

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