Leader’s got fresh young appeal

2011-10-29 16:39

Mazibuko believes politics is tough but rewarding and can’t wait to get down to work, writes <strong>Lucas Ledwaba</strong>

Lindiwe Mazibuko jokes that her ear hurts from being on the phone all day.

Her phone hasn’t stopped ringing since she trounced veteran politician Athol Trollip to become the Democratic Alliance’s parliamentary caucus leader on Thursday, with messages of support and congratulations pouring in from friends and fellow parliamentarians.

The media also ensured her phone was glued to her ear, with endless interviews and requests for comment on various matters. Mazibuko is also the DA’s national spokesperson.

When we chat on the phone on Friday afternoon, she says she has been in and out of meetings and was preparing for yet another one.

But she’s not complaining – Mazibuko takes it all in her stride, saying although the pressure is on it’s something she’s used to.

“I live in three cities, Cape Town, Durban and Joburg, which means I’m usually in an airport pulling a suitcase. But it’s an exciting job,” she says.

She doesn’t get a lot of spare time, but when she does, she likes to hook up with friends for a drink and a meal.

“I’m quite boring,” she says with a laugh. “I’m just a normal 31-year-old and I do the things that people my age would normally do.”

She chuckles slightly when asked if ANC Youth League president Julius Malema had also sent his good wishes.

“No,” she says. Malema once referred to Mazibuko as DA leader Helen Zille’s tea lady. But this is the least of her worries. What worries her is when politicians use race as a tool to degrade their opponents.

“Black people in the DA have been called monkeys and tea ladies. It’s degrading. But the people of this country just want to get on with their lives together. They catch buses, trains and work together every day,” she says.

Mazibuko is the fourth youngest parliamentarian in the country together with Cope’s Luzelle Adams, Mduduzi Manana of the ANC and the DA’s Masizole Mnqasela.

She says the fact that two-thirds of the country’s population are aged under 35 is a challenge to politicians to adapt to social media that resonate with the youth.

“You will no longer need to have a meeting with a chairperson preaching to people,” she says.

“I was drawn to politics because I love this country,” she explains when asked why she joined the DA back in 2006. “There were things about our political dispensation I was not happy about. I didn’t like Thabo Mbeki’s stand on HIV and Zimbabwe.”

She rose quickly through the ranks, having started out as the party’s media liaison officer in Parliament. In 2009 she became a parliamentary candidate for the DA in the general election, appearing third on the party’s KwaZulu-Natal list.

She was appointed as the DA’s shadow deputy minister of communications and succeeded Donald Lee as the party’s national spokesperson.

“Politics is tough but very rewarding,” she says.

Media reports have hinted at discord in the DA ranks over her meteoric rise. But she pours cold water on this, saying there is no truth to reports of animosity between herself and Trollip, or that their race for the parliamentary position tore the party apart along racial lines.

Right now, Mazibuko is looking forward to starting work and putting some of her proposals into practice.

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