Lesego Kekae, Congress of the People (COPE) Youth Movement Tshwane secretary

What are you studying at Tuks?
Industrial Sociology and Labour studies (Third year).

When did you become part of the executive management of the COPE Youth Movement in Gauteng?
I became part of the Cope Youth Movement this year. I was involved with the student movement and then I was co-opted to the youth movement. I became involved with COPE@Tuks in my first year. I think the media played an important role to why I chose COPE@Tuks because I always saw the brand of Cope. And I was in love it, for no reason, I was in love with the brand of Cope. Before I even knew what was going on with it. Then I remember coming to university and seeing them [Cope] at a small table. Thabo Mdlalose, the previous chairperson, was there and I asked him whether this was Cope and he kindly said yes and I wrote my name down.

How did you get involved with politics?
I’m a township girl. I went to school in the township. And then I got the opportunity to study at the University of Pretoria. And when I came here I realised that this is so diverse. We’ve got black students, we’ve got coloured, we’ve got all the races here at the University of Pretoria. And for the political side of it, I always heard students who I lived with in first year tell me how unhappy they are with the university. I thought the best way to know what was going on at this university was to get involved. And I’ve always had this mentality. Getting involved with politics doesn’t mean that you have to be on the opposition side or on the ruling party. Just as long as you are involved in politics you can make a difference. And that is why I fell in love with politics.

How were you elected to this position?
I was actually co-opted to the youth movement. They had to vote – the provincial structure had to vote to put me in power. Because apparently in Tshwane its movement was not functioning so they put us in power so that we can move with the Tshwane region.

What will your work as secretary of the COPE Youth Movement in Gauteng entail?
First of all we decide. We are the running body of the Tshwane region. We have sub-regions, which are branches, which report to us and we report back. We also think as the provincial of Gauteng Youth Movement.  So we make decisions about what happens in our region which affects our sub-regions. So we run campaigns. All campaigns that you see from the youth movement come through us first. We are the decision body of the Cope Youth Movement in Tshwane.

Will your new position affect or help students at Tuks in any way?
Cope SM (Cope Student Movement) is a branch together with Cope YM (Cope Youth Movement). So whenever Cope SM tries to pursue a certain goal, we take part in it. For example, with elections they tell us what they need in terms of marketing, in terms of the t-shirts, the bags or whatsoever, together with man power. We come to Cope SM meetings and help them. I’m a student myself within this university and people know me. They can come to me with any problems that they have and I have the power to influence the Cope SM to take action.

Are there any initiatives from Tuks that you will be working on in this position?
Cope@Tuks has a marketing initiative, something that is actually a culture here at Tuks. I introduced that to the region. We have marketing weeks which will start on 5 June, and will work in the same way as campaigns at Tuks.

What are you hoping to achieve as secretary of the COPE Youth Movement in Gauteng?

At the moment our mother body is not functioning very well. And I can tell you that the little role I have is a very powerful role to play, not only in the Cope Youth Movement but in the Gauteng province. We can either decide to destroy the party or to build it. And what I’m hoping to achieve is to build an alternative whereby the citizens of this country and the inhabitants of the Gauteng province can benefit from it. That is what I’m hoping for, to build an alternative for the people so that they can actually look at it and say, “I can follow this structure.”

How will you get students to be more involved in politics and voting?
Now that elections are coming up next year, Cope YM is not really active on campuses, but it works with the student movement. So we are planning to hold a voters campaign which will be taken over by the student movement. We are trying to enlighten people about the importance of their vote.  Students are held back. They feel like they can’t touch politics. People are afraid of politics. Students do not want to be labelled as the “SASCO girl” or the “Cope girl”. I’ve been labelled as a “Cope girl”, and you must know that Cope really isn’t functioning well. Students are afraid to come out with or to even voice their complaints because they don’t want to be labelled. I ask the youth to take part in politics. If you don’t take part in politics you can be governed by a person who is your sub-ordinate, because you do not even want to go to vote. I’m really emphasising the issue of the power of your vote.

Photo: Reinhard Nell

 

 

Thorne Godinho, Democratic Alliance (DA), Youth media and publicity chair

What are you studying at Tuks?
LLB Law (Third year).

When did you become part of the national DA Youth committee?
04 May 2013.

How did you get involved with politics?
I don’t really know how it happened. I suffered a very traumatic experience of crime and I think the majority of middle-class South Africans, when they experience that their gut feeling is to say “let’s leave South Africa”. But I think that is extremely selfish because there is a whole country that cannot leave South Africa that has to live in worse circumstances than what people in middle-class suburbs have to deal with. [When I initially got involved with student politics] I was very nerdish and I googled all of the political parties in South Africa. I knew I was a liberal, that was an important thing, and I was most interested in the Independent Democrats and the DA. The DA had structures in Gauteng and in Pretoria and the ID didn’t. So I contacted the DA and I immediately got a response. I got a group of my friends together and we all signed up to join the DA. When I first got involved in student politics it was all about bringing the DA’s message to the university, but I know now that there is a greater fight to help students. I am keenly aware that students deserve better and that is why I am involved in student politics.

How were you elected to this position?
Essentially what happens is that it is a completely democratic process. You have to be under the age of 31 and you have to have two people, who are DA members, to nominate you. I was lucky enough to be nominated by Jordan Griffiths and by the current DASO chair at Tuks, Mathew Cuthbert. Then they vet you to see that you are actually a member of the party. And then there is an election. We had 117 delegates from across the country, and they came together and they voted on who appears on the ballot. It is like a normal election.

What will your work as DA Youth media and publicity chair entail?
There are several things. It really does depend on the person who gets it. So I hope I can live up to some of the expectations I have of myself and also of the voters or the people who wanted me to stand. We have to ensure that the DA Youth is relevant and that it is effective in getting our message out there. But [it is also about] ensuring that we have constant commentary on issues. The second thing that I am passionate about and that I want to do is to ensure that branches or provincial structures in the DA have the skills to get the message out there. And that we, at a provincial and branch level, can show people that we are really working on the ground and that we are driving issues in the press.

Will your new position affect or help students at Tuks in any way?
I think it’s a great opportunity because [I’m aware of] the problems facing students. It’s great to have someone on the DA Youth executive who is a student, who is on the ground that can ensure that the issues we face can get out there. I also think that we have a polarised university campus and I think that at times we get too much of the kind of politics that say “stop politiek” and not enough “how can politics help you”. So it’s about driving issues. And I would like to try and get some of Tuks’s issues, or the issues that affect young people, out there.

Are there any initiatives from Tuks that you will be working on in this position?
I don’t think that it would necessarily be specific to Tuks. DASO Tuks is trying to ensure that our activists at Tuks are trained in social media. We are also ensuring that the message of the student who can’t come to the university or who can’t afford to be here gets out there. Last year we wanted to introduce our activists to what the DA really is. Talking about the people and the party. This is one thing we need to be doing. We need to tell people who we were and what we want to do. We want to be the unapologetic liberal party and we were the party that fought against apartheid.

What are you hoping to achieve as DA Youth media and publicity chair?
As an organisation we must not be afraid to speak on political issues. We should be driving an unapologetic liberal message. We need to ensure that we differentiate ourselves from other organisations. There is a quote from Helen Suzman where she says “I hate bullies, and I believe in simple justice”. If I can bring that forward in this position, if we can fight bullies and fight for this belief in simple justice, then that is what I would like to achieve.

How will you get students to be more involved in politics and voting?
I think that one of the big issues, especially at university, is that once students get to university it is like they’ve reached the first hurdle in life. The next one is to get a job. For some people studying and getting good marks is going to be the most important thing in a country where government just doesn’t ensure that jobs are created and where education isn’t readily available to people. So once they’re in this kind of environment I think they don’t want to get involved in these other kinds of things. Students aren’t realising that maybe the problems they had before can be solved by politics. They can be solved by a new government. I’ve heard that people are saying they aren’t going to vote next year. This is problematic because that means that the current government, the ANC, can continue to not deliver and can  continue to take money that should be going to NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid scheme) and putting it in their pockets. That’s the first part of the question, the second part is that politics isn’t sexy. Politics isn’t interesting. Unfortunately, it really isn’t interesting for students when they have to hear about the nationalisation of mines. Those aren’t real issues. You need to be talking about real issues. We’re going to be doing some really interesting, I think, risqué things in the future. I think that is how we will get students and young people to pay attention.  We need to ensure that there are young people who are promoting interesting politics, sexy politics.

Photo: Naomi Karp

 

 Barend Taute, AfriForum Youth deputy president