First day 'at school' for MPs

2004-04-22 13:06
Cape Town - There was excitement and relief in the halls of Parliament on Thursday as new and returning MPs arrived to register for the third term of the ANC government.

Pamela Mnandi, an ANC MP from KwaZulu-Natal said the third term of government would represent her "liberation" from the Inkatha Freedom Party's rule in her home province.

"I am tasting liberation for the first time in 10 years. I have come from KZN where the ANC has taken the heavy yoke of the IFP off my shoulders," she said to laughter.

Mnandi's colleague, and new ANC MP, Phumzile Bhengu said the new term represented a chance for government to increase its interaction with South Africans.

"I am very excited. I am looking forward to seeing what South Africans have voted for."

She said she was excited by the chance to serve the voters.

"The rural people have really helped put us here... they helped us take the province (KwaZulu-Natal) now we must implement their requests."

Although pleased by the 10% rise in the number of female MPs, Bhengu said she was more excited by the increase in disabled MPs.

More women

"I was told there are 22 disabled MPs now," said Bhengu, herself in a wheelchair. She added that she found the parliamentary complex wheelchair friendly and easy to access.

ANC MP Sam Nxumalo laughed when asked if he felt outnumbered by the number of women.

"Women provide more opportunities to represent the public ... there are more women than men in South Africa."

Nxumalo said he was not threatened by the fairer sex.

"They are just colleagues to me. It shows how far we have come in 10 years... now there are more women too. I am also relieved because it shows we are not messing up. The country is getting better. Before 1994 we did not think this would happen ... we were all inexperienced."

Returning NNP MP Carol Johnson said she could not wait to get back to work.

"It (the elections) was all very exciting but I am glad it's over. I am glad to be back. I have been inside the national assembly and I sat on my little seat and I just looked around... it's great to be back," she said.

The NNP took a beating at the polls and has just seven seats in government.

By 11:00, 232 of the 400 MPs had registered. They will be sworn into government on Friday.


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