ELZA VAN LINGEN, cconstituency Member for Tsitis-Karoo (Baviaans, Kouga and Koukamma municipalities), and DA Leader in the National Council of Provinces, has been described by her colleagues as dynamic, energetic, and self-motivated, whilst she says her opponents may regard her as a thorn in their side, due to her relentless insistence on lawful and responsible governance at all levels.
Political background: I did not set out to become a politician, and this role is really quite far removed from my former farming days in Middelburg, where my husband Michael and I ran a merino stud, and farmed livestock and game. I was a sheep and angora shearing contractor in eight districts, employing more than 100 people.
In 2000 we sold the farm and moved to Cape St Francis. My active involvement in the local community brought me to the attention of DA ward councillor, Ben Rheeder, who suggested, in 2003, that I could make an even greater difference by becoming involved in local government. When I agreed, the DA nominated me straight on to the Cacadu District Council. As a hands-on person, it was natural for me to be at the forefront of protest marches, to take councillors to task and lend an ear to resolve residents’ concerns. I moved through DA ranks to become the chairperson of the former Tstisikamma constituency, which was in 2009 renamed as the Tstitsi-Karoo constituency, incorporating Baviaans.
In 2009 I decided to put my name forward for Parliament, and was elected to the NCOP. Despite being diagnosed with breast cancer in the same year, and having to undergo surgery and therapy (which explains why my Parliamentary access card photograph shows me bald), I was soon back on the job. Today, I am grateful to be clear on all medical tests, and to hold responsibility as DA caucus leader in the NCOP.
What does my job involve? From Monday night to Friday afternoon I am based at a pre-fab house at the Acacia Park parliamentary village in Cape Town. From Friday to Monday I am based at Lyngenfjord, Cape St Francis in Kouga, where we own a guesthouse. In between I operate from my “mobile home” – my suitcase that is so indispensable as I rush from one caucus or event to anotherand doing oversight as a member of the NCOP!
From the start of my day, usually at 5am, I follow a hectic schedule. I serve on two select committees in the NCOP, covering six portfolios- namely energy, economic development, mineral resources, international relations, tourism and trade and industry. I also serve on the Constitutional Review Joint Committee. The NCOP, as part of its oversight role, presents a “Taking Parliament to the People” event in a province each year, preceded by oversight fact-finding visits to the area to identify issues hampering service delivery. The select committees also pay oversight visits to areas critical to their portfolios. In addition to all these meetings, travelling and oversight, a vast amount of reading is essential to my work.
In addition, as DA caucus leader, I attend other committees such as the Rules Committee, Joint Whips Committee and Programming Committee meetings of the House. As if this is not enough, there are similar joint committees where both the National Assembly (NA) and the NCOP leadership must be represented by the DA leadership– leader and the whip.
Within the DA structures, I serve as provincial finance chairperson, the federal executive, federal council and federal finance committees.
Of course, as a public representative, my role does not stop over weekends, as I am busy in my constituency not only on Mondays, as the Parliamentary rules require, but often on Saturdays and Sunday afternoons as well. Michael, my husband of 37 years, my four children and four grandchildren also seek my attention!
Highlights of my constituency work: My constituency includes Baviaans, Kouga and Koukamma municipalities, an area covering 13,453 square kilometres, which isrural with a population of 156,982. Each area has its own challenges and potential which has to be addressed on an individual basis.
Unique characteristics of this area include the special job nodes in the area where the region leads in quality and quantity product such as the Baviaans Mega Reserve, adventure tourism and forestry industry in the Tsitsikamma, soft fruit industry in the Langkloof, livestock farming in the Baviaans, citrus in the Gamtoos valley and calamari industry from the Tsitsikamma coast to the Van Stadens River mouth and the world renown surfing waves at Jeffreys Bay.
One of the issues that most concerns me, and which I seek constantly to improve, is local government, health, educations, provincial roads and environmental issues. Some of the most important work in my constituency over the last two years has included supporting schools to function as education hubs of excellency where entire communities can benefit from the children being developed to their full potential.
Hospitals and primary health care also required a constant hand of support to ensure the communities receive the health care they are entitled to.
Highlights of Parliament: I have had wonderful experiences being an MP, ranging from the legislative processes, the special functions of the NCOP wrt provincial matters, the contacts made in the various departments, and the networks that constantly are expanding, to the knowledge gained of legislation in my portfolio and the workings of local, provincial and national government.
I believe in: an open opportunity society where all South Africans have equal opportunitieswhere each one can realise his or her own dreams. There must be redress and reconciliation for the past and it is our duty to ensure it happens in this country, our provinces, our constituencies and in our communities.
My message in a nutshell: I am firmly dedicated to upholding our constitutional democracy, ensuring that the law and the truth prevail, and making a difference in the lives of those who need it most, including upholding the people’s right to always to be in a position to make an informed decision. We should all be fearless in our beliefs, never give up, and knuckle down with energy and tenacity to get things done!