So you want to be… a politician?

Tshepang Tlhapane

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Live SA’s “So you want to be…” is a weekly series that aims to help you in the process of choosing a career. We speak to practicing professionals about the difficulties, benefits and intricacies of being in their field of work. This week the focus is on POLITICS, we speak to three young politicians, namely Mbali Ntuli, […]

Live SA’s “So you want to be…” is a weekly series that aims to help you in the process of choosing a career. We speak to practicing professionals about the difficulties, benefits and intricacies of being in their field of work. This week the focus is on POLITICS, we speak to three young politicians, namely Mbali Ntuli, Magasela Mzobe and Magdalene Moonsamy, who together represent the Democratic Alliance (DA), the African National Congress (ANC) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), respectively.

Ntuli was elected as the DA youth chairperson in May 2013 until she stepped down in August 2014. She has now been redeployed to the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature. She remains an important leader within the DA.

Mzobe – one of the front runners for the ANCYL presidency at their elective conference on the weekend of  26-29 November 2014 – studied politics, philosophy and public administration at the University of KwaZulu-Natal where he obtained a BA in 2006. He is currently second in command as coordinator of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) National Task Team.

Moonsamy is a former ANCYL spokesperson and former National Youth Development Agency Chief Operations Officer.  She left the ANC to join the EFF in December 2013 and is now the head of International Relations and Solidarity for the EFF.

Tshepang for Live SA: Has politics always been what you wanted to do?

Ntuli: I think it is a calling, it is always what I wanted to be because I have the passion for people and the world.

Moonsamy: I have always been an activist and believed strongly in justice and the advancement of the rights of the oppressed and working class.

Tshepang: What advice would you give to a young person looking to get into politics? What steps does one need to take? Does one need a qualification?

Ntuli: If you want to get into politics you first need to take time to understand people and the world. Education is not necessarily so important, you must have the passion for the cause. Be self-aware and sure of yourself. Have something people can associate with, for me my passion largely lies in gender activism and education.

Mzobe: Young people need to know that politics is information driven. Arm yourself with knowledge and be ready to extremely ridiculous hours, there’s a lot of hard work involved.

Moonsamy: All people should be involved in the development of the nation and take interest in the direction the nation is taking economically, politically and socially. We must participate in our communities and ensure that we assist in making the lives of people around us easier. You can do this by participating in social projects, assisting the elderly and youth by sharing the skills, talents and potential we have. Education is the cornerstone for developing society so we must ensure that we gain access to education in order to develop our society. Education is not an option it is a basic and necessary step for future personal and collective prosperity.

Ntuli at a DA rally. Image: Mbali Ntuli/Facebook

Tshepang: Is there room for young people to come into South African politics? Which areas are lacking within the political sphere that you think young people can occupy?

Ntuli: There is definitely room but I would advise that young people must be really specific about what they want. As people we are different and so it is of importance that you find what you are passionate about and pursue that.

Mzobe: Yes there is, especially since we have a shortage of skills within politics and particularly across provincial legislatures.

Moonsamy: Young people must participate in politics in order to own the decisions that must be taken. Our society is very young, our continent is a youthful continent, our ideas , innovation and technology is taking the world forward. We should love the elderly, but  the pace of development requires youthful energy and vigor.

Tshepang: What are the pros and cons of being a politician in South Africa?

Ntuli: The pros are that you gain an incredible amount of knowledge and understanding of how everything in your country works. There are a lot of amazing opportunities to travel and meet incredible people. You get the power to change people’s lives and there’s also a deep sense of job satisfaction.

The cons of it all is that it is very emotionally taxing, you are constantly embroiled in conflicts. It is definitely not a friendly business. It is a very high pressured job and very dangerous at times. You get instances where politicians are threatened, I myself have been attacked and have a number of cases open.There is political violence but you need to learn what to take to heart and what not to.

Mzobe: Politics provides opportunity to take part in the decisions determining the direction of the country and take part in public policy decisions. The problems come when your private life starts getting affected. Sometimes it is as if the public forgets that we are human too and treat us with distinction. There is also intense traveling and late meetings which can get tiring.

Moonsamy: In order to change the conditions of the lives of our people and that of women, it requires us to change the way our society has been entrenched in perception and patriarchy. This requires intense focus, determination and perseverance. One has to be strong and resilient. The joy that comes with bringing a smile and hope. Even serving one person is a reward that makes the experience worth repeating.

Mzobe at an ANCYL press breifing. Image: Lee Molefi


Tshepang: In most instances, the determining factor when choosing a career is how much money it pays. Does politics pay well? Should it even be about the money?

Ntuli: I don’t think that it should be about the money but anyway remuneration depends on the kind of job and kind of position. It depends on the amount of time you have to put in, the pressure and the actually quality of the work that you deliver. What I do know though is that Councillors, members of provincial legislatures and members of parliament get paid quite well.

Moonsamy: Passion can be rewarding or not. Many famous artists lived very poorly and earned fame and wealth posthumously. This is the consequence of following your heart. Politics is not easy and definitely not about money in fact you have to give more than you must expect to receive.

Tshepang: What role do you think politicians play in society?

Ntuli: Politicians are supposed to play the role of being leaders people can aspire to be. They are people that have the ability to make difficult decisions even if they are not popular.

Mzobe: Politicians are the magnet holding our country together. Politicians must fight corruption and people will give more respect to them. They must be role models and know how to conduct themselves.

Moonsamy: They influence society, thinking and ultimately make the lives of the people easier or more difficult. This depends on the policy stances they take and how they understand  what people are saying and how they respond. This has influence on the price of bread, fuel and even where and how we live. Politicians play a very important role in society, they determine the direction society must take.

Moonsamy with fellow EFF leader Advocate Dali Mpofu. Image: Lee Molefi

Tshepang: How much personal/family time do you get in your job?

Ntuli: It is quite difficult to have a balanced life, sometimes you get burned out.​ I personally don’t get enough personal time if at all.

Mzobe: Honestly there is not enough personal time, your time with family and those you live with is compromised at times. It is important that you have a family that supports you in what you do.

Moonsamy: I have very little personal time, however I love working and that is very rewarding.

Tshepang: What does a typical day look like?

Ntuli: One day is different from the next. You have endless meetings this day, tomorrow you are marching and tomorrow you are out speaking in public. It gets intense but at the same time it is invigorating.

Mzobe: I wake up at am, I prepare for media interviews and read the news. I prepare for meetings and go through a lot of documents before I start my day and deal with office work. Sometimes you find that you are in meetings that go on until 12:30 am and sometimes even 4am. The more responsibilities you have the longer the hours are. I spend more time on the road than I do at the office.

Tshepang: Do you ever have regrets about your decision to get into politics?

Ntuli: Yeah, I sometimes feel like I should have done some things different and learned a lot more. I however don’t too stressed as I am still very young and I still have the opportunity to do all that I would like to do.

Moonsamy: No, I don’t have any regrets. I have always believed in my decisions and stood by them.

Tshepang: Any more advice for young people?

Ntuli: Yes, make sure that you have friends that are not in politics and also have two hobbies that do not have anything to do with politics.

Mzobe: Be interested in the politics of South Africa and the world. Know how individual behavior contributes to building society. I mean a politically conscious young person knows that unprotected sex will weaken the workforce. It is a direct attack on the development of the country. A lot of money is wasted when it could have been used somewhere else more beneficial to the development of our country.

Follow  me @Jeff_hound on Twitter

Also follow @MagaselaMzobe, @Mbalimcdust and @MaggieMoonsamy 

Photography: @LeeMolefi

The #2014Elections has set an exciting and vibrant context for the future of South Africa politics to unfold upon. What happens now that you’ve voted? How do we gauge whether we’re “moving the country forward”, whether we’re “bringing change” or “economic freedom in our lifetime”? Stick with #LiveVIPZA and we’ll give you analysis, debates, comments, polls and all YOU need to understand, enjoy and interact with SA politics.