DA youth leader Mbali Ntuli

By Drum Digital
03 November 2010

SHE devotes her days to the cut and thrust of politics, taking on the likes of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League and speaking her mind on issues such as corruption and the nationalising of mines. But today there’s only one thing on Mbali Ntuli’s mind: her upcoming two-week holiday in Thailand...

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“I’m so excited,” the 22-year-old federal youth chairperson of the Democratic Alliance (DA) tells us as she settles herself down in a coffee shop in the KwaZulu-Natal north coast town of Ballito.

She’ll be heading to the Asian country with her taxi-boss mom, Thobile, and younger brother, Mlamuli (19), who have joined her here today, and she’ll try to keep her mind off politics as she lounges on the beach.

But for someone as driven as Mbali, that won’t be easy. Among her first duties when she returns will be to “tackle the ANC Youth League” by venturing into its traditional strongholds to recruit people to the DA. “I’ll be aggressively visiting townships and rural areas in KZN and introducing them to DA policies,” she says.

She’s already proved she’s no sissy, having publicly mocked ANCYL president Julius Malema after he said mines should be nationalised to fund universities. With cutting sarcasm she said his plan would result in universities supporting state mines because the only state-owned mine in the country, Alexkor, had not made a profit in five years. She also ridiculed him by saying that perhaps he’d like to nationalise mines to pay for a lifetime supply of Johnny Walker and some proper education for ANCYL leaders.

Yet while these remarks make good headlines, it’s not easy to picture this stylish young woman venturing into ANC strongholds in rural KZN to rally support. But her mom says we shouldn’t be fooled by her appearance.

“At first she might appear warm and friendly,” glamorous Thobile continues, “but I must warn you that when my girl puts her mind to something, she gets it done.”

Still, plucky determination is one thing – but what about when politics turns nasty? As some political commentators have suggested, youth leaders from other political parties could wipe the floor with her. Mbali smiles at this suggestion and brushes strands of braided hair from her face. Let them try, she says. She’s determined to make a difference.

“Young people are now at more of a disadvantage than ever. We need leaders who are committed to changing that. Eighty per cent of our schools are dysfunctional, 72 per cent of the country’s unemployed are youths and HIV/Aids has hit our young population hard.

“We can only change this by delivering on our promises and not paying lip service to development. My promise is not to other youth leaders; my promise is to the youth.”

She answers this so faultlessly it’s time to see if she can handle a tough question. So, what does she say about the claim that she’s been appointed youth leader because of affirmative action – that her party is mainly for whites and she is nothing but a coconut?

She puts her coffee cup down. “I’m a proud product of theDAYoung Leaders’ programme, which I’ve been involved with since 2008,” she says earnestly. “It’s where future leaders are groomed and mentored. And I have been active in creating a strong DA presence in KwaMashu and Ntuzuma, where DA Youth branches continue to grow.

Read the full article in DRUM of 11 November 2010

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