Until a few months ago, Freddy Sonakile worked as a legal adviser at the North West provincial legislature, where he was trusted by members of all political parties.
But that has all changed – he is now a legislator himself.
The 29-year-old law graduate is one of the DA’s four members of the provincial legislature, something he strongly believes the governing ANC was not pleased about.
Before then, he was one of those officials who sat through committee meetings, listening to and recording matters, including robust debates, and even grilling officials about alleged corruption and maladministration.
“As a legal adviser, you are attached to committees and you provide advice on drafting legislation, ensuring the work is in line with the law. You also assist in drafting service-level agreements and provide legal opinions to the secretary and other managers,” Sonakile said.
Although he was one of the go-to officials on legal matters for politicians and managers in the legislature, it was not always a pleasant experience working with committees, which are made up of multiparty groups of legislators.
At times I had to provide a legal opinion which was overlooked because it was not in line with a member of the majority party
“It would often be very sad looking at something right being sidelined. You can’t even take it to the Public Protector for review … you are defeated and there is nothing much you can do about it,” he said.
Sonakile said he was glad that his voice would now count.
“I am a member of the legislature now and I am able to fully express my opinion and defend it. I am now able to challenge a lot of things and raise many issues I could not as a legal adviser,” he said.
Sonakile said not everyone was pleased with his move.
In fact, he said, there were attempts to stop him from joining the DA when he dropped the bombshell and resigned as a legislature employee.
“They were not expecting it and I received calls from many people, including ANC members. Some asked, ‘what did we do wrong, what did they promise you?’,” he said.
“There were those ANC members of the legislature I was close to who committed themselves to assisting me get a higher and better-paying position in the legislature if my decision to join the DA was based on finances. But I refused all offers because – after consulting my family – I had made up my mind.”
The soft-spoken Sonakile has, in just months after joining the legislature, become one of the most vocal from the opposition benches.
“I believe I am a threat especially to the ANC … every time I stand to address the house they’d howl and raise frivolous points of order. They probably think I know much of the things I should not because I was a legal adviser,” he said.
“I might be a new member of the legislature, but I bring with me institutional memory and can always refer to the previous administrations. I have been accused of stealing or leaving with information when I was exposed to some issues many expected I would not to be aware of.”
In response, the ANC caucus spokesperson in the legislature, Tshiamo Tsotetsi, said the party did not see any threat in Sonakile because “there is nothing to hide and he is welcome to reveal anything because it is our commitment to rectify the wrongs from the past”.
On trying to stop him joining the DA, Tsotetsi said: “We’re on a constant recruitment drive as the ANC, but people should know that joining the ANC cannot be based on anticipation of any material benefits.”
“I speak out on many issues, but I am not a vendetta-driven person. My mission is to ensure that things are done accordingly,” Sonakile said.
“So much has happened, public funds were looted, and tender irregularities and alleged corruption were exposed, and cases opened … it should not end there and politicians should not be allowed to get away with murder. I want to see politicians behind bars for their wrongs and believe this would serve as a lesson to others and help our justice system regain public confidence.”
He said he was impressed by some “ANC members who were equally tired of corruption to an extent that they approached me with information, sometimes incriminating, so that I could raise them in the legislature because they could not do that against their comrades”.
Born in Zamdela township, Sasolburg, in the Free State, Sonakile obtained his LLB degree at North-West University in Mahikeng.
He said it had always been his dream to be a politician, but he had not expected it to happen so soon after joining the legislature as an adviser.
“I am still friends with some ANC members, including members of the legislature, who still call me although they would not want to be seen with me. It is wrong for people to think that by not agreeing politically, we’re enemies,” he said.
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