Johannesburg - Thoko Didiza was dressed in a simple black
dress suit, the kind that does not attract attention. Still, she was the reason
for the media scrum, and cameras flashed every time she moved, or when her name
was mentioned at a press conference called by the ANC's Gauteng leadership to
announce the province's 12 mayoral candidates on Thursday.
It is quite a spectacular comeback to life as a public
representative for the former minister, who resigned from Cabinet in 2008 after
former president Thabo Mbeki was sacked.
She returned to the ANC’s national executive committee in
2012 and to Parliament in 2014, where she served as House chairperson, but it
was only when her nomination as ANC candidate for Tshwane mayor sparked massive
violence and looting in the city that South Africa really sat up and listened.
- Elections Map: Previous Tshwane results
On Thursday she spoke out for the first time since her
nomination earlier in the week, and sat down for a one-on-one interview with
News24. The 51-year-old admitted the local government sphere was a new
“challenge” for her, but there are lessons she learnt from her previous
leadership positions that will stand her in good stead.
“The experience I bring in terms of leadership it is about
being able to work and build the team of the people with whom I will work as
members of the executive council but also the administration,” she said.
“It’s being able to ensure that our administrative processes
support our policy objectives, and one has been able to do that working in the
sphere of national government. In 1994, for instance, working as a deputy
minister [of agriculture and land reform] with Kraai van Niekerk one of our
challenges during the first five years was how do we integrate the different
agricultural departments that were there across South Africa and the former
homelands system, ensuring that you have an effective administration that is
coherent and united, focused on the same goal.
“In the city obviously one of the things would be to ensure
that one is able to give leadership, working with the council to ensure that
those objectives as identified in the Integrated Development Plan are actually
implemented. It is also about clean governance, to ensure that the manner in
which we spend the resources that have been voted for by council, we do so and
in a more efficient way.
“Issues of accountability are also important. At the local
government sphere they are more important because it is not only accounting to
council, but working with local councillors in accounting to communities about
the work that has been done by the council.”
And if she had to say something about former president Thabo
Mbeki, under whom she served as a minister and spent most of her career in
Didiza in a measured way said she would like to postpone
talk about this to a different time, because right now she preferred to focus
on Tshwane. If her campaign programme allowed, however, she said she might go
to the launch of a new book about him on Friday night, called “The Thabo Mbeki
She spoke a bit about the past nonetheless.
“In the ANC I have grown among different leaders from who I
These include Jeff Radebe, Sibusiso Ndebele, Mike
Mabuyankulu and Zihle Sikalala (all in KwaZulu-Natal).
“I have worked with the women’s organisation under the
leadership of women like Florence Mkhize. I was part of the women’s movement
when we tried to invite the Federation of South African Women [prior to 1994].
“I have worked with women around the country, but I’ve also
worked with comrade [Nelson] Mandela when I was serving as the deputy minister
under his leadership. I have worked with comrade Mbeki and comrade [President
Jacob] Zuma when one was the president and one was the deputy president.
“So out of all those leaders of the ANC, one of the things
that one can say we learnt and grew, was selflessness, putting our people
first, ensuring that in serving our people we do so honestly and diligently.
And it’s not about us but it’s about those who have given us a mandate to
execute the responsibilities in government.”
Didiza said she started her political career before the dawn
“I did that work while I was not in government, as all of us
were not there prior to 1994. Because through our activism in ensuring that we
liberate, in ensuring that the concerns of women during the transition were
brought into a constitutional framework, it was about serving people, because
that time we were not serving in government but it was about being conscious
about the struggles of the people and what they would want to see in the
“And for me when one is given an opportunity to work and
serve the people of Tshwane, it is not what I do or what we do as the
collective of individuals, but it is how we work with those communities to make
Pretoria a better place.”
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