So many questions: Lindiwe Mazibuko

30 October 2011 - 03:13 By Chris Barron

Lindiwe Mazibuko has been elected to lead the DA in parliament. Chris Barron asked her .

This is not a job for sissies, is it?

No, politics is about putting yourself out there and asking people to judge your worth, so you have to expect a few slings and arrows.

Are you expecting the ANC to try every trick in the book to unsettle you?

Yes, I don't doubt that they will.

What makes you think you'll be up to it?

The fact that I've been up to it over the past two-and-a-half years. The governing party already tried when I was party spokesman to throw me off. I was a tea girl, I was a servant to the madam, I was a monkey, I was all kinds of things.

Who will call the shots, you or Helen Zille?

I will in the DA parliamentary caucus. Helen Zille will in the DA.

Does it complicate things having the real leader outside parliament?

No, it makes things more exciting. The party leader has created an entirely new platform for us in government, which we can use to add to our tally of successes in opposition, and that's going to give us the momentum towards 2019. We can start to build policies in advance, rather than when we've already replaced the government, and demonstrate that our policies work.

How will the DA's style of opposition inside the house change?

Under Tony Leon, it was far more rigorous; under Athol, it was a little bit conciliatory ...

Too conciliatory?

Can you be too conciliatory? That's his style; it's the way he is as a human being. Tony was fiercely intelligent and takes no prisoners. I can do both.

So the DA will be more confrontational?

That's not acceptable as a blanket policy. It's got to be something you do in response to particular issues.

Do you think parliament has become a bit of a sideshow?

When everybody started debating the possibility of an economic Codesa, it brought home to me how parliament has been sidelined. None of these things is debated in parliament. Our role in parliament is to pass government legislation.

Can you change this?

Absolutely. One of the things we've done over the past six months is introduce a rotational system of motions, so motions by opposition parties are now being debated in the house.

Is your election all about your being black?

It's not only about my being black, but it's not not about my being black. I recognise that part of my appeal is that I add to the diversity of the DA's leadership. But I have a raft of skills which I bring to the table and which I believe I can use to breathe life into parliament.

You're fairly young and inexperienced. How difficult will it be for you to read the riot act to older members?

The chief whip is responsible for reading riot acts.

Will your election bring young black voters to the DA?

 I believe it will. But not only young black voters; young voters in general.

You've got a relatively privileged background. Will township youths identify with you?

 I'm not expecting them to identify with me because they think we're the same. I'm expecting them to take pride in, and comfort from, the fact that a fellow young person is engaged in a field traditionally seen to be the preserve of a much older generation.

The ANC has suggested you don't have the authentic black experience. Can you identify with township youths?

 This is an example of why you can't box people. I actually did grow up in a township, but people assume, because of my accent, that I did not.

Did you tell that to Blade Nzimande?

No, because he was implying that, in order to get your black certificate, you need to have gone through a few experiences, jumped through a few hoops. I was not going to say, 'No, Blade, I am black; look, I lived in Umlazi.' That would be buying into the notion that blackness is something that can be awarded to me by some arbiter of race.