MP Ganief Hendricks tells us how he runs five Constituency Offices

8 Aug 2021 (2 months, 2 weeks ago)

hendricks

Ever wanted to know what exactly happens in Constituency offices, and how some MPs engage with their constituents?

In this blog, we had the opportunity to interview Mr Ganief Hendricks who runs a whopping five constituency offices across the country. His constituency office areas are in Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. We asked him to tell us how he manages these Constituency Offices, and what have been some of the operational or logistical challenges he has encountered in running these offices.

Mr Hendricks is the leader of a small political party called Al-Jama which won a seat in the sixth Parliament. The Al-Jama political party mainly appeals to the Muslim community that felt largely underrepresented in South African politics.

We have learnt that many people hardly make use of constituency offices. How do you encourage members of your community to make use of the services offered at your constituency office?

My National Parliamentary Constituency Office is in Mitchell's Plain. In addition to this office, I also lead four other Constituency Offices across the country.

My Constituency Offices have had to adapt to the challenges that come with Covid-19. Our services are now run virtually, and we have made sure that the office assistants at each Constituency office remain employed to assist constituents. Our office assistants work from home in Tshwane , Mpame Village, Port Elizabeth and Athlone.

I have five people stretching my reach to three provinces, a learner Constituency and a Khoi Constituency. On the radar is a Constituency office for Lenasia in Gauteng and Umzinto in KZN.

We restrict visits to our physical offices and have opted to offer telephonic services and projects to reach out to constituents. We are increasing our footprint with an online / virtual radio station to reach out to all provinces as a way to take Parliament to the people.On our virtual radio stations, live listeners phone in to raise their issues and these are addressed through written questions to Ministers, and by engaging secretaries of portfolio committees to fast track responses of officials in different government departments. The challenge however, is to market the radio service so that more people know about the platform, and use it to raise matters to Parliament.

I serve as a full member of the portfolio committee on small business development. My Constituency Offices have largely focused their attention on access to business funding opportunities.

To keep my constituents abreast of business funding opportunities, I invited the Deputy Minister - Nokuzola Capa from the Department of Small Business Development to speak to my constituents in Mitchell’s Plain. The department spent an entire day with my constituents, discussing available training and funding opportunities for small businesses.

As a result, three locals in Mitchell’s Plain will receive training by Seda and funding by Sefa. An owner of a mall in Lenasia has offered to fund infrastructure projects for a business incubator programme that provides 2000 square meter of retail space. I also visit Constituencies in rural areas and a fishing boat has been provided for local fishermen in Mpame village.

How do you manage 5 constituency offices, and what have been some of the operational or logistical challenges you've encountered in running these offices?

I have an Administrator and a Constituency Personal Assistant that sets up appointments and assists me with the day to day running of the offices. In addition, there are 4 virtual Constituency officers that assist with expanding my reach t constituents.

What do you think are some of the structural or policy challenges with how Constituency offices are funded and operate in South Africa?

Departments like social welfare and others should have provision to fund projects of Constituency offices in line with their mandate to expand their footprint of services.

What are some of the solutions you can offer to resolve these challenges?

Departments should have a line item in their budget to assist Constituency offices.

You have a diverse group of young people administering your constituency office. Do you think that it is important that Constituency offices must reflect the cultural, religious, gender and racial diversities of our communities?

We do have a diverse group and this helps community cohesion and puts Ubuntu in practice. We have team building outings where we bring everyone together. However with the Covid-19 pandemic, these gatherings are now largely held on virtual platforms.

MPs are supposed to spend Mondays at their constituencies. How do you allocate your time to each constituency office, given that you also sit in 8 Portfolio Committees in Parliament?

Because I have a strong Constituency staff, my role is limited to face to face meetings on a needs basis, however we usually convene virtually. I jump from portfolio committee meeting to portfolio committee meeting which is made possible with multiple devices to link up via zoom meetings.

People's Assembly has an ongoing digital campaign to encourage citizens to petition Parliament. What are some of the petitions you have endorsed and submitted to Parliament on behalf of your constituency?

We have a petition from Braemar in KZN for water and one from Mpame village for services.

Mr Hendricks is the leader of a small political party called Al-Jama which won a seat in the sixth Parliament. The Al-Jama political party mainly appeals to the Muslim community that felt largely underrepresented in South African politics.

Learn more about MP Ganief Hendricks here.



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