RICHARD MDAKANE was born on 1 January 1955, in a town called Dundee (currently referred to as kwaThalane) in what used to be Natal.
Political Background: My mother was a domestic worker, and my father was a migrant worker. They used to work for a Scottish family. The family was forcefully removed from the farm it had stayed on and moved to Wash Farm, just when I attended primary school. This was where I attended high school and got involved in student politics around 1972. There were too many families staying on the farm - this experience was the first encounter that I had that alerted me to the realities of the country back then. As children we never understood why we were removed from what we called “our homes”. Generations of the family were born on that farm. This move did not make sense, but the system decided that we had to be moved. The people ended up in Kwahlathi, on the northern parts of the Msinga region. This became the dumping ground for all those who were forcefully removed from their hometowns. My mother still resides there and I visit often. I matriculated and moved to Johannesburg where my father was a migrant worker. I still own a plot in Alexander Township. My involvement with student politics increased. I led a student movement, and I was deployed to work for the ANC underground in 1979. I was arrested in 1985 for involvement with student politics, and at the time I was already deployed to lead the Alexandra Civic Organisation. I was acquitted in 1989, and when I went back to Alex, I enrolled with Khanya College and studied economics and African history.
In 1994 I became a member of the Gauteng Legislature, and I was also made the Chief Whip of the ANC in the Legislature until 2004. From 2004 until 2009 I was elected Speaker. My responsibility was to ensure effectiveness and proper running of the institution. Fifteen years in one place became a bit much, and in 2009 I made a move to Cape Town. I was appointed as a House Whip, becoming responsible for the running of the House. I still occupy the position, and the functions include sitting in the ANC’s strategy meetings, planning and deciding the party position on important matters. This is also where matters raised by the opposition are countered at a policy level. On many occasions I share the strategy meetings. I also became the Chairperson of the Sport and Recreation Committee. I am an ardent soccer fanatic and growing up, I attempted coaching and I remain the only coach who never lost a game.
What does my job involve? Chairing the Sport and Recreation Portfolio Committee is challenging, especially since transformation in sport is not happening at an ideal pace. This is a big challenge that the country is faced with. But, another matter that the country had to grapple with was good governance of sporting structures. If administrators could be assisted on how to administer clubs, it would assist them greatly. The Committee needs to ensure both transformation and good governance happen in sport generally. Although rugby is better managed, sport in SA is generally run poorly. The main causes of the problem are poor governance, and that the affairs of federations are not run professionally.
Highlights of Parliament: The role of Parliament is crucial in ensuring that South Africans speak with one another. This requires a lot of thinking among officials, and they have to be creative. Parliament is continually improving, and communicating well with the public. The country has a wonderful constitution and brilliant initiatives are being undertaken to ensure Parliament communicates effectively with the ordinary man on the street. The Languages Bill is one such initiative. Parliament need not be a lesser-known institution somewhere in Cape Town.
Highlights of my Constituency Work: My constituency is Johannesburg, and I’m deployed in the inner city of Johannesburg. The city has issues regarding evictions, and it is gradually decaying. Many buildings in the city centre were dumped by people, in anticipation of a civil war after 1990. Syndicates took over the buildings, and they are now completely run down. These were the issues that the city was faced with. Another challenge is the City’s cosmopolitan nature as it attracts more people from all over the world. Integrating foreign nationals into the city has become another challenge.
I am passionate about soccer and sport in general. Sport could pclay a vital role in South Africa, in terms of bridging the gap between races. South Africa is a divided society and sport could play a vital role in addressing divisions that were created well over 300 years ago.
My message is that the public needs to work with Members of Parliament and Government in ensuring a prosperous future for all South Africans.
For more information about Mr Mdakane, visit his profile.