It’s about ideology, rather than biology for ATM’s 31-year-old leader

He is 31 years old, single, holds a business management degree from the Nelson Mandela University and is currently working towards attaining an honours degree in that subject through Unisa.

One would be forgiven for thinking these sound like the credentials of a young man looking for love on an online dating site.

In actual fact, they are the credentials of Vuyolwethu Zungula, the leader of the African Transformation Movement (ATM) political party and one of 48 party leaders vying to be the sixth democratically elected president of South Africa after the May 8 elections.

Speaking to City Press, Zungula said that in the one year that he had been at the helm of one of the fastest growing political parties in the country – as indicated in the recent by-elections – he has learnt to navigate the question of whether he is too wet behind the ears to lead a party, let alone an entire county.

Read: Manyi's ATM adds prayer to campaign strategy

“It’s not about biology, it’s about an individual’s ideologies that make them a suitable candidate to lead,” he said, adding that the current crop of leaders are – in terms of age – way older than he is, however, their policies and “what they stand for has run the country into the ground”.

The ATM president told City Press that, as a sign of his commitment to ensuring a better South Africa for all, as recently as last week he was forced to resign from his financial accounting job at MMI Holdings to focus entirely on electioneering leading up to the May 8 elections.

ATM president Vuyolwethu Zungula. PIcture: Sthembiso Lebuso

“We are certain of victory come the results of the elections. Worst-case scenario, we will come second but as we go to the polls we are very confident that our support base that is mainly centred in the African Independent Churches will carry us over the line,” he said.

The Mthatha-born Zungula explained that the ATM is a by-product of African Independent Churches which realised “that when politicians engaged with religious organisations their point of contact was always mainline churches falling under the South African Council of Churches”.

“This meant that churches such as the ZCC [Zion Christian Church], 12th Apostles and Shembe Church never had the audience of government. This led to these side-lined churches decoding to formulate our own faith-based political party which would drive change through encouraging Christian values,” he said.

He added that the party was open to every South African.

“We encourage Christian values but do not impose them as we have the LGBTIQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer] community, the Muslim community and the Rastafarian community among our members.”

The soft-spoken leader does not view himself as a politician “in the true sense of the word. Politicians have become synonymous with only seeking position and not serving the people. They have become known for looting state coffers – lining their pockets while ordinary South Africans linger in utter poverty.”

He added that he “was not even a leader in the African Independent Churches that decided to band together and form a faith-based political party”.

“I was a leader in the church’s campus movements and was appointed from this role to lead the ATM at its inception.”


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