Has Mazibuko made a meaningful impact on SA Politics?

If we are to celebrate 20 years of democracy, we need to credit all those who contributed and who have continuously redefined our spaces. Such praise should not be limited to be people who hold the same views but should acknowledge those that have kept our democracy alive. 20 years of democracy should tell us a story that we have become politically mature regardless of our affiliations; after all we want a new generation of leaders who will not be afraid to take our country forward. Mazibuko is one such leader and I hope her example will speak to many young black women to do the same.

When it was announced that Lindiwe Mazibuko would be quitting as the DA’s Parliamentary Leader, to study abroad at Harvard University, social media went crazy.  Comments ranged from wishing her well to astonishing comments attempted to discredit her decision. The latter comments were mostly related to the perceived fall-out she had with DA’s Leader, Helen Zille, over the Employment Equity Amendment Bill (EEAB).

While there may be some merit in the speculation over Mazibuko’s real reasons for departing, it’s important that the impact she has had on young black women is not lost in the noise. Politics, among young black females in particular, is often thought of as a business for old men.  Her entry into and triumph in a male dominated environment, which saw her rise from an ordinary DA member to effectively lead it, needs to be acknowledged and not undermined by South Africans.

I believe that that Mazibuko speaks to a new generation of young black women. She has become a force to be reckoned with, challenging conservative ideas about why black people shouldn’t vote for the DA but, more importantly, shattering the glass ceiling which insulated the patriarchal political system from women. In terms of representative politics, her presence allowed other young black women, even if they disagreed with her, to believe that they too could claim that space as their own. Under her leadership, Parliament became a place of robust debates, something that interested young people and made Parliament less of a distant and irrelevant institution. From her Impeachment of President Zuma, to her stand on POSIB, Mazibuko has led our nation’s discourse on critical issues. And she has allowed young black women to believe that they can do the same.

I am personally not very supportive of the DA. I believe that they still haven’t cracked the code that would help in reaching the majority of black South Africans. They are, inmy mind, still too white and middle class. Mazibuko, and the likes of Mbali Ntuli, the DA Youth Leader, are embodiments of a changing DA. These are beyond just appearance, but in substance as well. There are other young black women in politics,  such as Anele Mda, but Mazibuko is among the few who actually seized the  opportunity given to them and did not fade away.

Despite being  called  ‘sell out’, a ‘tea girl’ and other derogatory names that none of her male counterparts are subjected to, her staying power and determination to lead has left a lasting effect on me – and, I’m sure on other young black women too. That she will study at Harvard University, something that still remains a far-fetched dream to most young black women, makes her even more inspiring.  To continuously see young black women pursuing education at the best universities across the world – something our forebears may have never even conceived – shows us that despite the difficulty in overcoming the effects of systemic racism, we can and we will.

Whether she left because she was pushed or because she chose to jump should not be our concern. That she continues to trailblaze her way through South Africa and soon-to-be Harvard is enough for us to accept her contribution to our development, as a nation and individuals, and hope that she is back soon.

If we are to celebrate 20 years of democracy, we need to credit all those who contributed and who have continuously redefined our spaces. Such praise should not be limited to be people who hold the same views but should acknowledge those that have kept our democracy alive. 20 years of democracy should tell us a story that we have become politically mature regardless of our affiliations; after all we want a new generation of leaders who will not be afraid to take our country forward. Mazibuko is one such leader and I hope her example will speak to many young black women to do the same.

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