UDM MP Nqabayomzi Kwankwa, from rubbish tip to Parliament

2016-05-31 11:13
Nqabayomzi Kwankwa (File, Twitter)

Nqabayomzi Kwankwa (File, Twitter)

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Cape Town – UDM MP Nqabayomzi Kwankwa believes his life's journey shows that it is possible for anyone to overcome poverty and live a life beyond their dreams.

Speaking to News24 on Monday, Kwankwa recalled how in his life he has had to find ways to deal with the effects of poverty and still stay true to his ambitions.

As a young child growing up in the Eastern Cape, he said, he and his family would regularly go without food.

"We used to drug ourselves with medicine to sleep, because you can't really feel hunger pangs when you are sleeping. You only get the reminder of hunger when you wake up the next day," he said.

Years later, in the late 1990s, when he moved to Cape Town to make a better life for himself, he found himself so destitute he had to join the thousands of homeless people living in the city's streets. His first ten days in the Mother City were spent sleeping in a rubbish tip.

Kwankwa told of the pain he felt at missing his father's funeral in 1999 because he was so poor he couldn't make it to the Eastern Cape for the burial.

"I could not go home to bury my own father," he said.

The MP was only able to pay tribute to his father, Ntabakandoda Kwankwa, a year after his death in his home village in Middledrift.

Recognisable face

The spirit of determination that has seen the MP rise through the ranks of the UDM was evident long before he entered the world of politics.

A homeless Kwankwa soon found work as a cleaner and security guard. It was during this period that he started his studies in economics. He then spent some years working in the banking industry, before giving up the corporate world to become a politician in 2009.

"Anyone can overcome hardships," he said, adding that young people needed to remember that hardships did not last forever.

And he has overcome all this to become the youngest UDM MP in the National Assembly, and one of the most recognisable faces in Parliament.

Asked about headline-grabbing incidents that have played out in the National Assembly recently, the 35-year-old MP said he remained optimistic about South Africa's Parliament.

He said that MPs were allowed to confront each other with their views was a clear indication of the level of tolerance there was in the country.

In other, non-democratic countries, the governing parties would take steps to crush the opposition, he said.

"It also speaks to the level of maturity in our young democracy," he said.

Kwankwa said he was hopeful that over time, political parties would outgrow some of the issues currently faced by Parliament, which has seen MPs forcefully ejected during question-and-answer sessions.

Single… but not available

The MP says he is looking forward to presenting an international leadership award, named after him, at a ceremony in Florida, US, in September this year.

The UDM MP was last year nominated for, and won, the 2015 Outstanding International Leadership Award for his role in spreading the anti-xenophobia message. The award has since been renamed the Nqabayomzi Kwankwa Outstanding International Leadership Award.

And this year he will present it to a young academic from Pakistan in September, he said.

And is the UDM MP, who has been widely referred to as one of Parliament's #Comradebae’s, available?

He might be single in the eyes of the law, but he is definitely not available, he said.

Kwankwa said there is this perception that because he was not married, he was available.

"So let me just put it on record that I am not fancy free. I am definitely taken," he said, laughing.

Read more on:    udm  |  local elections 2016

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