Speaker speaks her mind

FOCUSED: Nkele Ntingane stays on top of her game. © Unknown
FOCUSED: Nkele Ntingane stays on top of her game. © Unknown

"A WOMAN can cook up a storm not only in the proverbial kitchen.

"She can do this anywhere because women make things happen wherever they are."

These are the words of Nkele Ntingane, the Speaker of the City of Johannesburg.

Ntingane, who has been the Speaker for the past three years, sank her teeth into local government in the 1980s and never looked back.

She sees her position as one of the most important roles in a city that is regarded as world class and the economic hub of Africa.

Ntingane, oversees the role of the council.

"I have to make sure that members of the mayoral committee and councillors do their jobs and account to the public," she said.

Ntingane also heads the junior council, which has the same function as the council, but is made up of and led by young people.

"They must know democracy comes with responsibility," she said.

Ntingane said juggling her life as a mother of three grown-up children and being a politician has not been an easy journey.

"At some stage I had to take my children to meetings with me," she said.

She dismisses the belief that few women can raise a family and have a career.

"It can be done, but it's not easy.

"You have to manage your time and never neglect your family," she said. She also said women need support from their families.

Unlike most councillors who move out of the townships once they are elected, Ntingane still lives in Alexandra, where she was born.

"I am a township person. I have not seen anything that will make me move."

As a councillor Ntingane said people sometimes visit her at home when they have problems with municipal services.

"I give them the right information and ask them to tell me whether they had been helped at government offices or not," she said.

Ntingane said it was important for people to use government service points and should not lean on those in power to cut corners for them.

"It is their government. They must use it and get the same treatment as everyone."

She has been a member of the United Democratic Front, the Alexandra Civic Organisation and other community and women's organisations.

Ntingane's experience is vast and varied. She was the co-chairperson of a committee in the local government negotiating forum before the first democratic election.

The forum was formed by the old government, unions and civic organisations.

In 1999 Ntingane was the chairperson of the public safety committee.

"I transformed that committee and initiated the JMPD academy.

"I was pressured to close the dog unit but I said no.

"I knew we would need it later and by then it would cost more."