‘I want to be part of change’

2013-05-09 00:00

WHEN DA Youth leader Mbali Ntuli witnessed the plight of fellow students who struggled with financial aid at Rhodes University, even if they had good marks, it marked the beginning of her political activism.

“It really upset me, so I went out to find political parties to ask them what they were doing for the students. The DA was the only party that really responded with satisfactory answers,” Ntuli said.

“I became interested in politics and joined them [the DA] as an activist. I started doing campaigns,” said the Rhodes University social science graduate.

Ntuli (25) was elected to her new position at the youth body’s conference at the weekend. She took over from Makashule Gana, who became one of the deputy federal chairpeople in the mother body.

Until her election to the top post in the youth body, Ntuli had been chairperson of the DA Youth. Her position was filled by Nelson Mandela Metro University SRC chairperson Yusuf Cassim.

In an interview with The Witness, Mbali said she considers herself a liberal and the ideals pursued by the DA are exactly in line with her own.

“I saw a party that was working where I lived, receptive when we asked questions as a community. I thought if I wanted to be part of change, then I needed to be part of the party that points out the wrong of the government and has committed itself to doing things better.”

Mbali grew up at Ntuzuma, a township in Durban, but her family moved to one of the suburbs when it was fashionable for black Africans from townships to relocate in the early nineties.

She went to school in the Midlands and Pietermaritzburg, where she did her junior and secondary school education, matriculating at The Wykeham Collegiate where she was head girl.

“It was such a good school. It provided the education that helped my career,” Mbali said about her former school.

“It was very committed to outreach, so it had a big impact on me being involved in the community.”

During her school days she played all kinds of sports — netball, hockey, tennis, swimming, waterpolo and athletics.

“It was encouraged at our school to get involved as much as possible. I was playing everything,” said Ntuli, adding that she has provincial colours in netball, hockey and athletics.

Postgraduate studies are on her to-do list “as soon as I get time”.

After completing her junior degree, she returned to KwaZulu-Natal to form branches in Ntuzuma, Inanda and kwaMashu, before becoming the provincial DA youth leader.

In 2008, she participated in the DA youth programme and became DA youth chairperson in 2010, and then a proportional representation councillor in the eThekwini Metro Municipality.

But her ties with the DA go back to the era of its predecessor, the Democratic Party.

This was just two years after the first democratic elections, when her family had relocated to a Durban suburb and had to slaughter a cow as part of traditional activities before the funeral of her father, Ben. Some people in the neighbourhood objected.

“A man by the name of Roger Burrows, who was the KZN leader of the DP, was instrumental in helping the family when we had umsebenzi [a traditional function] and slaughtered a cow. It was the first time it happened in the suburb.

“The DP stood up for my family and people’s right to practise our cultural rights in the new South Africa,” she said, adding it was at that time she saw her party as being progressive.

“The DP at that time argued that we had to find a way for people to live together and observe their cultural beliefs and traditional ceremonies without oppression. I think that was a good thing they did,” she said, adding that the incident had helped the municipality to develop bylaws dealing with the slaughter of animals and consultation of neighbours.

Ntuli owns an events company and two taxis she inherited from her late father, who died when she was eight.

She said it is difficult for her to juggle her responsibilities, but not impossible.

“For the past two years, I have found a good way of balancing them. When I’m in trouble, I seek help from the people I work with.”

Ntuli said her dream is to grow as a person and a leader. “I have this pace, energy and time right now to pursue things,” she said.

Ntuli said her main task as the new leader of the DA youth is to try to reach out to other political parties and youth formations.

“This is to create an atmosphere in which we can engage on how we take youth issues forward, instead of parties fighting among themselves. This can show that as youth we are responsible and don’t resort to doing foolish things.”

Will the ANC Youth and Young Communist leagues, whose leaders have often scorned their counterparts in the DA as Helen Zille’s tea ladies or garden boys, buy into that?

“Of course, for [the sake of] all people who are interested in youth going forward, we must engage,” she replied firmly.

The Durban North resident also said she would make it her task to grow the DA youth beyond the cities.

“We need to be in rural areas. We must position ourselves with what we say and campaign on issues as champions of the agenda of young people.”

For now, her new job will be her preoccupation, and she says she has no higher ambitions.

“I’d like to be still involved in politics, but opportunities will open up after elections,” she said.

“I’m still young and I don’t want to tie myself down to anything concrete right now,” she added.

And going to the national Parliament is also not on the cards yet.

“I’m not really interested at the moment. Definitely, I don’t feel I want to go into National Assembly politics.”

I went out to find political parties to ask them what they were doing for the students. The DA was the only party that really responded with satisfactory answers.

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