Parliament's 'youth'

Cape Town - She tweets regularly, backpacked through Europe between degrees, and at the young age of 29 is in the opposition DA's shadow cabinet in Parliament, keeping her eye on a troubled sector as shadow deputy minister of communications.

Meet Lindiwe Mazibuko, one of seven twenty-somethings appointed to Parliament after April's general elections.

While Youth Month celebrations take place across the county, these young politicians from various parties have been rolling up their sleeves and getting to work as they begin a five year term in the country's legislature.

According to Parliament's members' facilities office, 56 of the country's 400 parliamentarians are aged 30 and under. Twelve are from the DA, three from Cope, one each from FF+ and the ID and the rest from the ANC.

But take that age to under 30 and just seven remain - one of them Mazibuko, who found a political home in the DA after becoming "very disillusioned with the ANC under Thabo Mbeki, to the point that I could no longer in good conscience support it".

After studying the official opposition as part of her honours degree dissertation, she resonated with the party's policies and applied to work with the DA as a researcher. "I was very encouraged by what I discovered: namely, that contrary to some widely-held beliefs, it is a party which is unashamedly pro-poor in its policy outlook," she said of the organisation she once saw as too "white".

She moved on to become media officer and when the party last year revamped the process of compiling party lists to include assessments of competency, Mazibuko was given a chance she never thought possible at such a young age.

ANC's Mduduzi Manana

The youngest MP is the ANC's Mduduzi Manana (pictured right at the 2009 State of the Nation address), who at 25 already has a lengthy list of positions behind him in business and in the ANCYL.

"I am the founder and managing director of African-Pearl Trading 15 since 2005 and serve as director in both Garatshane Trading Enterprise and Lizobalela Trading Enterprise respectively," he told News24. "Last year, I was appointed to serve on the board of Lembede Investment Holdings (the investment arm of the ANCYL)."

Manana has committed to declaring all his assets as required by Parliament.

He is the son of Mpumalanga Community Safety, Security and Liaison MEC, Sibongile Manana, who made headlines as health MEC in the province when she refused to supply ARVs between 2001 and 2004 - something Manana says he debated heatedly with her at the time.

"I felt the delay on the roll-out of ARVs was a travesty of justice," he said.

He's no stranger to controversy, having been excluded from a number of academic institutions, which he attributes largely to ideological differences. In 2003 he went to Baghdad to act as a human shield in the US-led invasion against Iraq.

Cope's Anele Mda

Cope's Anele Mda (pictured right), 30, doesn't need any introduction. The newly-formed party's youth convenor made waves before the elections, taking on her former colleagues at the ANCYL.

Born in Bizana in the Eastern Cape, she grew up in Mthata and founded an NGO, the Port St Johns HIV and Aids Information Centre, when still in her late teens.

Mda serves on Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, as well as the Committee on Women, Youth, Children and People with Disability. She told News24 she was more than ready to get to work on the troubled home affairs department. "The people out there suffering as a result of the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness at home affairs currently are young people."

While her ANC counterpart Julius Malema declined his position in Parliament "to serve the youth" better, Mda said that Parliament's rigorous requirements for financial disclosure may have scared the firebrand leader off.

Mda meanwhile is proud to have gotten where she is - without any favours. "It's an achievement that comes out of my commitment, dedication and working hard."

The DA's Tim Harris

The DA's Tim Harris, 29, (pictured right) is also new to Parliament. An Economics whiz, he is one of two party whips in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). "I will be part of the team that will ensure that the province gets a truly equitable share of the national budget and that any new legislation will benefit the people of the Western Cape," he told News24.

A former Hilton College pupil, Harris’s two-month economic policy stint at the DA in 2004 turned into "five years and three election campaigns, once the politics bug bit". He worked as chief of staff in former DA leader Tony Leon's office and travelled through 22 African countries on a surf trip from Cape Town to London up the west coast.

"I am excited about the prospect of working as a law-maker, especially in the area of economic policy and job creation," he said.

And while none of these young parliamentarians were even born in 1976 - the year of the Soweto uprisings that Youth Day marks - they all bring an injection of new energy into the house.

As Mazibuko says: "I do still feel a healthy dose of that idealistic desire to change the world… I feel enormously privileged to be able to work in this crucial arm of the South African government."

In text photo credits:
  • Mduduzi Manana (Anna Majavu, Sowetan)
  • Anele Mda (Werner Beukes, Sapa)
  • Tim Harris (Photograph supplied)
We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.