Mr George Michalakis

May 25, 2020 (1 month, 2 weeks ago)

"We have a brilliant future ahead of us if we choose to make it a reality; if we embrace each other, work hard for it and demand nothing but the best from those who are chosen to lead our country."

George Mich

What is your political background? How did you come to join your political party and become an MP?

I got involved in politics on campus at the University of the Free State and joined the DA in 2007. I was one of a very small group of liberal students during a very rough time in the university’s history. Trying to bring people together as individuals, each with unique qualities and values- to create something good has been what motivated me then and it still does today. I became a municipal Councillor at the age of 23 in 2011, and came to Parliament three years later.

What does your job as an MP entail? What do you enjoy about being an MP?

Our job is simply to hold the Executive to account and to make good, sensible laws for South Africa. However, the ultimate goal of this is to ensure every person lives their best life with as much individual freedom and opportunity as possible. We’re still a far away from creating this for everyone, but because our job relates to the hopes and aspirations of the people, the part that I enjoy the most is getting to meet and to know as many of the wonderful people we represent as possible. We really have wonderful people in this country!

What are you or your party's aspirations/plans for the Sixth Parliament?

It is all about creating a better country for everyone who lives in it, really. We will do everything we can with the tools to our disposal to contribute towards this. Jobs, safety and opportunities for every single person should be the main focus. Of course we will also seek to lay the foundation for a future (better) government that can realise these aspirations. I can only hope that the Sixth Parliament will be a battle of ideas that will ultimately seek to take our country forward.

What obstacles prevent Parliament from doing its work and how would you fix it?

Speaking from a perspective of the NCOP, I think that a lot of work still needs to be done to ensure that we do not simply copy the work of the National Assembly, but that we firstly understand the role of the NCOP and, secondly, fulfil this constitutional mandate. From the DA’s side, we are committed to this, but it will take an effort across party lines to change the current ineffectiveness.

Which Constituency Office have you been assigned to? Can you give examples of Constituency work you engaged in?

I am very proud to represent the areas in which Masilonyana and Tswelopele municipalities fall. I was born and raised in Winburg and my family has had ties with Hoopstad for decades, both of which fall within my constituency. My constituency is comprised of six small Free State towns with the warmest, friendliest and most hard-working people you will ever come across and I am proud to not only represent these communities, but to regard myself as part of the community. I make a point of being available for person interactions with constituents over weekends, on Mondays and during constituency periods, although our job is a 24-hour one, so it is not unusual to be in contact with constituents even on days when I am in Cape Town. However, it is important to visit the constituency as much as possible to see problems first hand. As Helen Suzman said: go and see for yourself! This is the only way in which we can really represent the people who live in our constituencies effectively. Does Parliament do a good job of holding the Executive to account? If not, what can be done to improve this? I think that Parliament’s role is vital in keeping our democracy robust and to build trust between the public and our democratic institutions. However, I do think that party loyalty, especially on the part of the governing party, is sometimes placed above the interest of the people in Parliament - and wrongly so! We should definitely look at ways in which the committees can be more robust in their scrutiny of the Executive - this is, after all, where the bulk of the work takes place. Are you happy with the proportional representation system or are you in favor of electoral reform? The DA has in the past proposed legislation that would bring the system more in line with the recommendations of the Van Zyl Slabbert Report. The recommendations of this report and the process of electoral reform has been stalled by the ANC for 16 years already and for no reason. We do need to have a system that will make MPs more accountable to the people that they represent. I cannot imagine how you can be an effective MP when you only regard yourself accountable to your party and not to the people who elected you as well. My DA colleagues and I certainly try our best to do both.

What can be done to get citizens more interested/ involved in Parliament? Is this an area where Parliament can improve and if so, what recommendations do you have? What are you passionate about? This applies both in political/ professional arena as well as personally?

We, as MPs, can be on the ground in our constituencies as much as possible. I try to make use of every opportunity to inform my constituents - regardless of which party they vote for - about ways in which they can take part in the legislative process and/or to bring issues that are important to them to Parliament. If we don’t make our work more transparent and more accessible, we would defy the whole purpose of a democratic Parliament. Keeping the public informed and explaining to them how Parliament works also goes a long way in helping with this. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. In this regard, I also think that entities such as PMG do a wonderful job in building that communication network and enhancing transparency. I get very excited at the prospect of meeting interesting people and seeing interesting places. It challenges the way you see the world and your ideas that ultimately leads to better ideas and (best case scenario) a change for the better. I think that is part of why I enjoy my job so much. Linked to this is my passion for travelling and reading and of course, debate and good conversations not only on politics, but anything really. We only have a limited time on earth. I would like to spend it enriching my own life with as many ideas and experiences as possible whilst at the same time using those experiences and ideas to leave this place a bit better than when I found it (even in a small sense).

What is your message to South Africa?

We have a beautiful country. Division, corruption, hate... this is not who we are. We have a brilliant future ahead of us if we choose to make it a reality; if we embrace each other, work hard for it and demand nothing but the best from those who are chosen to lead our country. The power lies with all of us to unite and build a better future.

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