By Lindelwe Dube
While there might be some merit in the speculation over Lindiwe Mazibuko’s reasons for departing, it’s important the impact she’s had on young, black women is not lost in the noise. Politics 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 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 that 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 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 Jacob Zuma, to her stand on the Protection of State Information Bill, Mazibuko has led our nation’s discourse on critical issues. And she allowed young black women to believe they can do the same.
I am personally not very supportive of the DA. I believe it still doesn’t speak to the majority of black South Africans. It is, to my mind, still to white and middle class. Mazibuko, and the likes of Mbali Ntuli, the DA Youth Leader, are embodiments of a changing DA. A party that changes not only in appearance, but also in substance. There are other young black women in politics, such as Anele Mda, but Mazibuko is among the few who actually seized the opportunity given and did not fade away.
Despite being called “sell out”, a “tea girl” and other derogatory things that none of her male counterparts are subjected to, her staying power and determination to lead has had a lasting effect on me — and other young black women too. That she will study at Harvard, something that is a far-fetched dream for many young, black women, makes her even more inspiring. To see black women pursuing an education at a prestigious university shows us that despite the difficulties 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 trail blaze 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 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 people who hold the same views but acknowledge those that have kept our democracy alive. Twenty years of democracy should tell us the story that we have become politically mature regardless of our affiliations. 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.
Lindelwe Dube is a managing organiser at InkuluFreeHeid and an intern at the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa. Views in this article are her own.