As long as members of the South African Parliament are not engaging with ordinary people and appear to only be debating matters of interest to themselves, citizens will not trust them.
These were the words of Speaker of the Provincial Parliament Masizole Mnqasela who hosted a Thetha Nathi event at the Thusong Centre in Khayelitsha last Wednesday.
The aim was to raise awareness of what people should expect from all levels of government and to give them the opportunity to engage with him and other provincial government representatives on issues affecting them.
The meeting was also attended by traditional leaders, street committees, the Khayelitsha Development Forum and many other local structures.
In his speech, Mr Mnqasela said Parliament and the provincial legislatures were democratic spaces that belonged to the people of the country and that it was the members’ prerogative to visit communities.
“So many people do not know that Parliament belongs to them. That pains me. That is why I believe that there is something abnormal about our electoral system. We visit people because we want you to have a belief that members of Parliament are only sitting there, discussing their interests. We want to make Parliament truly a Parliament of people,” he said.
He motivated the public to participate in Parliament and discouraged them from destroying infrastructure when they are frustrated.
“We need to use the legal processes within the Constitution. Theta Nathi is a solution. We should not destroy the infrastructure, burn streets and throw buckets full of faeces on the street when we can call our leaders to account. I agree that as leaders we sometimes do not listen. We only react when the streets are burning. But we should use violence an answer to our demands,” said Mr Mnqasela.
The speaker also encouraged people to be leaders in their areas and bring wisdom. “This is not the Khayelitsha I know and grew up in where life has become so cheap. Crime in Khayelitsha is a pain. But how do we deal with it decisively? You also need to lead in your area. Know what is happening and who does what,” he told them.
Mr Mnqasela said his vision to form Thetha Nathi started in 2019 with the aim to launch it in 2020 but was never launched because of coronavirus.
Some participants argued that some by-laws were enforced in townships but not more affluent areas, and that the needs of township residents were not taken seriously by government.
Others complained that there used to be programmes for youths but that these were no longer being run and youngsters therefore turned to crime.
But the public education and outreach officer in the office of the speaker, Owona Madlingozi, denied that and urged residents to consult the office of the speaker and other relevant offices when they have concerns. She said it was for that reason and some that the speaker is going around educating residents about Parliament and their rights.