Very beautiful and also brainy

Khanyisile Nkosi

Khanyisile Nkosi

There are two very striking things about 31-year-old Pat Lebenya-Ntanzi. She is strikingly beautiful and is never at a loss for words when speaking about the challenges facing young people in this country.

The leader of the IFP Youth Brigade is one of the youngest parliamentarians in the National Assembly.

Born and raised in Matatiele by a Xhosa mother and a Sotho father, Lebenya-Ntanzi says she wants to ensure that issues affecting young people are placed high on the agenda. Judging by her determination and passion, nothing is going to stop her.

Q: What is your responsibility at the IFP as youth brigade leader?

A: Leading the youth on behalf of the IFP, the country's second biggest black political party, is a huge responsibility. I have to ensure that I put young people's interests first. I find out what they want, and expect from me. There is no time to rest because issues arise daily and I have to think how these will affect young people and what I can do to make a difference.

Q: How long have you been in this position?

A: Since 2006. Before that I was the youth brigade's deputy national chairman.

Q: How long have you been involved in politics and how did you end up there?

A: I've been involved since 1998. It was a calling rather than choosing it. In high school my home was always packed with young people because I used to organise various youth activities such as drama and music.

I have worked really hard to be where I am today. Because of my passion, I was elected to various positions and have served in all the structures. To me it is not about being involved in politics, but about having an opportunity to make a difference.

Q: What has been your contribution since you took over as youth brigade leader?

A: As a Sotho-speaking person, I believe that joining the IFP was a milestone. Young people must know that they can break the stereotype and achieve anything they set their minds to.

Q: What in your opinion are the main issues affecting youth and how can they be resolved?

A: The main issue is unemployment. All the other challenges emanate from the desperation and sense of hopelessness that young people find themselves in. When the SA Research Council says that the unemployment rate has dropped, you are not impressed because you are surrounded by desperate young people who have lost hope because they can't get any jobs at all.

The youth brigade has prioritised this concern. We have even marched against unemployment because we believe it requires attention from the highest office in the country. When we meet with other political organisations, we try and put our differences aside and address the issue as a collective.

HIV-Aids is another burning issue. I believe that it should be introduced as a subject at schools. If we allocate time to talk to the youth about the disease everyday, the message will eventually sink in and there will be a decrease in the spread of HIV-Aids.

Q: What has happened since the march?

A: Nothing. But I believe that we young people must continue to press on. We must not become despondent because nobody else is going to take up our fight. We must keep ensuring that our voices are heard. The fact that Parliament allocates only one day a year to talk about issues affecting youth is appalling.

Q: As the country celebrates youth month, what would you like to see happening?

A: More young people coming to the forefront and aggressively raising issues affecting them. They should stand up for their rights. It's about time that young people speak up.

A: Do you think that women have made strides in politics?

A: Cultural background still plays a big role. There are men who still believe that women shouldn't lead them and they try to make things difficult for us.

Some women in leadership positions do experience resistance from some men, but I believe no one is going to conquer that battle except women. We should get into those positions because we are leaders in our own right and we have earned those positions.

We need to stand firm and show that we are actually better leaders than men. I believe the saying: If you want something done give it to a woman, but if you want something said, give it to a man.

Q: How do you balance being a politician and a wife?

A: With proper planning anything can be achieved. I manage to be happy at home and at work.

Q: Do you think there is room for women in politics?

A: Definitely. Actually, women are more needed in politics than before.