Local councillor heading for Parliament

In a feature in the Advertiser for Women’s Day in August 2015, Samantha Graham (then Jankowich) was asked about her inspiration and goals. “I would really like to serve in the Provincial Legislature (as an MPL) or National Assembly (as an MP) at some stage. I live my passion.  I wake up every morning and I am excited about the day.  I am in a job that allows me to keep learning every single day and on really good days, I get to feel like I have managed to make a small difference in the life of another person. “

Few residents of Graaff-Reinet and Aberdeen can be left in any doubt about Cllr Graham’s passion for her work, and she certainly has made a difference in the lives of many people. And this year, it seems although her dream of serving on a wider scale is going to come true.

Following a rigorous nomination process, she has been placed at number six on the Eastern Cape Parliamentary List, with an overall position of 77 on the consolidated list for the National Assembly.  Currently, the DA in the Eastern Cape has nine Members of Parliament, and the DA nationally has 89 Members of Parliament in the National Assembly and 20 in the National Council of Provinces.  This means that barring any unforeseen circumstances, Samantha will be taking up her dream position as a Member of Parliament after the May elections. 

All Members of Parliament (MPs) and MPLs (Members of the Provincial Legislature) in the DA are allocated constituencies and become Constituency Leaders.  This is only finalised after the election, but given that Graham is the only person from this area, it would be a good fit for her to be given responsibility for the Dr Beyers Naude Constituency, an area she obviously knows and understands well.

MPs are expected to attend their Plenary and Committee Meetings in Cape Town when Parliament is sitting, but the rest of their work should be done in their assigned constituencies.  They are allocated a house in the Parliamentary Village in Acacia Park in Cape Town, which is where they stay when they are attending Parliament. Cllr Graham was quick to assure the community that MPs do not have to move to Cape Town, and that she will remain a resident of Graaff-Reinet, actively promoting the wellbeing of those in the area.  

“Personally, I am very sad to be leaving local government” said Cllr Graham.  “I have loved being a Councillor and I enjoy working intimately with my community. A real highlight was when I was acting Ward Councillor of Ward 5. It was extremely special getting to know the people of Kroonvale” she added.

Graham explained that Parliament will be much more removed from “grassroots” politics. “I am really excited at the prospect of being part of changing the path this country is moving along and being involved in the development of legislation and policies.”  She admits that it is going to be a huge challenge, and that she is not looking forward to the travelling involved, as she will need to be in Cape Town every week when Parliament is sitting.

Samantha and her family moved to the Karoo at the end of 2008, from Cape Town. They spent just over two years in Aberdeen, where Samantha soon became involved with the community, revitalising the DA in the town, and gaining particular support in Lotusville. She stood as the DA candidate in the local government elections in May 2011, narrowly losing to the ANC candidate.  She was subsequently appointed as a PR councillor for the DA. During the election campaign, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2010, finishing treatment the following May, just ten days before the elections. Through all of this she remained positive and focussed on her campaign.

In 2012 the family moved to Graaff-Reinet, for Samantha to be nearer her main place of work, and more importantly, to be closer to her children’s school.

In the 2016 elections, she was the DA’s Mayoral Candidate, and really appreciated the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of the Municipality, which she says gave her so much insight into the issues in each area. She added that she has thoroughly enjoyed being a member of the Executive Committee of the Municipality and Chairperson of the Corporate Services Portfolio Committee, which have allowed her greater insight into the workings of local government.

There have also been disappointments and frustrations along the way, one of the biggest being the amalgamation of the municipalities. “My submission opposing it was the basis of a full report commissioned by the Municipal Demarcation Board. The report advised strongly against amalgamation, but politics prevailed and it happened. Watching this Municipality fall into its current dismal financial state is heartbreaking” she said. Another major frustration is that the municipality is not delivering services to the local communities.

Samantha has continued to give her utmost to the community, and will be sorely missed. She hit the ground running even during her chemotherapy treatment, and worked from East London whilst receiving radiation in Frere earlier this year. Even from Cape Town, the community will probably still be receiving social media updates on local problems from this dynamic lady!  

Her closing wish for now is that she will be able to represent the people of the Eastern Cape to the best of her ability.

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