Tsepo Mhlongo (DA)

27 Sep 2017 (3 years, 9 months ago)

tsepo

What is your political background? How did you come to join your political party and become an MP? I have a long history of school leadership involvement spanning almost three decades. I began by joining the SRC at Matseliso Secondary while a matric student. The SRC was a political student organisation that primarily focused on mobilising the youth. After completing my schooling I then went on to UNISA in 1996 to study for a BCom degree but had to drop out unfortunately due to financial constraints at home.

I have extensive and impeccable credentials as a community activist and am an astute politician, having served in the leadership of the SRC and civic movements. In the post-1994 political involvement under the new South African dispensation I saw myself grow even further in political stature. I joined the Democratic Party (DP) political structures in Soweto in 1998. This led to my unpopularity as it was not fashionable to be black and be associated with the DP at that time as it was seen as a white party.

I also played a pioneering role in introducing different Democratic Alliance (DA) branches in Soweto during the same period. I also participated in different committees where I served alongside many senior activist including Mr Wilson Shabangu and many other leading figures in South African politics. I steadily rose within the DA leadership ranks.

I have served in the structure since its inception in 2000 until my appointment as shadow candidate councilor for the Greater Johannesburg, representing Orlando East. In 2006 I was elected to be a DA PR Councilor in the City of Johannesburg. I have also served in The Regional Executive Committee of Johannesburg Region, Gauteng Provincial Executive Committee of the party and Federal Council.

What does your job as an MP entail? I can say 50% of the work is legislative, 25% is constituency work and the political work is 25% . I am elected to represent the people thus part of my work as a public representatives is done inside Parliament and part of it is done directly with citizens during the constituency periods; and political work.

Tuesday mornings I attend plenary meetings and in the afternoon we have National Assembly sittings. Wednesday mornings I sometimes have different appointments and in the afternoon there is a National Assembly sitting. On a Thursday morning there is a caucus meeting and i the afternoon I attend National Assembly sitting. Friday and Monday is constituency work.

What are you finding most challenging about the Fifth Parliament? I believe now there is more awareness amongst the general public with regard to the work supposed to be done by Parliament. Voters are aware of what Parliament entails and the aspects raised in the House. This is good and means that us as MPs have to take our work seriously.

What obstacles prevent Parliament from doing its work and how would you fix it? It is an obstacle when we are in committees and government officials turn out be political tools and politicians defend the officials, not understanding the separation of power and oversight over the Executive.

Which constituency office have you been assigned to? Can you give examples of constituency work you engaged in? I am allocated to work in Soweto East and our office is in Diepkloof. I serve 12 wards in Soweto which compose of 8 suburbs. My work involves assisting community members with service delivery issues and advising communities to petition Parliament on different issues.

Does Parliament do a good job of holding the Executive to account? If not, what can be done to improve this? I believe more stills needs to be done and this can be done by asking relevant questions and submit written question to the Executive.

Are you happy with the proportional representation (PR) system or are you in favour of electoral reform ? Yes I am happy and our party has submitted an Electoral Reform Bill in Parliament to amend the Electoral Act to ensure that Members of Parliament are directly accountable to the people they represent. This is the culmination of a process which was started last year to give effect to the longstanding policy to ensure that Parliament is tied more directly to constituencies across the country. While the current PR system has its advantages, including that it is inclusive, immune to gerrymandering, and is perceived to be fair, it does not ensure accountability of MPs to individual voters. People have no way of voting out an MP who does not perform. In a PR system there is no geographical linkage between MPs and voters. The allocation by political parties of MPs to non-existent “constituencies” is a very poor substitute, as there is not accountability to, nor mandate from, the voters in those constituencies. This sometimes means that MPs are unable to perform constituency duties effectively since they enjoy no particular status or standing in the constituencies to which they are allocated.

Is Parliament's public participation model adequate/robust enough that it affords enough public participation before a law is passed? I do not think it is enough and we need effective public participation not talk shows. All individuals participating need to be informed on policy and understanding the law before it is passed as it will affect them directly or indirectly.

What are you passionate about? This applies both in a political/professional arena as well as personally? I enjoy working with people. I can state that I am fulfilled when I help people and make a difference in somebody's life.

What is your message to South Africa? Let us not lose hope; South Africa will be saved in 2019. All South Africans need to be involved in civic organisations and not just vote, but be active participants in our country.

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