HE is only 19 years old, barely out of high school and is yet to go through the Xhosa rite of manhood, yet Sandiso Makwetu is the man to lead the youth wing of the ANC in Nelson Mandela Bay for the next year and a half.
Yet to obtain a matric certificate or an equivalent qualification, Makwetu says despite his age he believes he has what it takes to lead and represent the Bay’s young people.
Makwetu, his deputy Mthetheleli Mfana, secretary Sandise Potwana, deputy secretary Nonhinha Maswana and treasurer Chuma Shweni were elected at the ANC Youth League’s elective conference at the weekend as official members of the regional executive committee (REC).
Having left IKhwezi Lomso High School after passing Grade 11 in 2010, Makwetu joined the PE College last year and is studying towards a national senior certificate (matric equivalent) in marketing, to be completed in 2014.
Born and raised in Seyisi, Kwazakhele, Makwetu comes from a politically active family, with his mother Lorna Makwetu serving as councillor in the municipality. His father, Dayi Dyolisi, was a former trade unionist affiliated to Cosatu.
Makwetu joined the Congress of SA Students (Cosas) at the age of 13 and then the ANCYL at 14.
He later became the regional chairman of Cosas in the metro, but declined further involvement when his focus shifted to the ANCYL.
"I was then tasked by former regional secretary Bongani Sibengile to assist in re-establishing the ward 21 branch, which had collapsed at the time,” he said.
Makwetu said he served in various youth structures and development programmes in the metro, including the moral regeneration youth movement.
He was then approached by the provincial executive committee last year after the suspension of regional chairman Wandisile Jikeka, his deputy Xolani Mgxotheni, regional secretary Sicelo Mleve and treasurer Sam Mdlulani.
Makwetu is yet to go through initiation school – generally regarded as an important Xhosa rite.
"I decided to answer the call to serve and then from here I will undergo that process,” he said.
Believed to be youngest ANC regional chairman in the country, Makwetu said his short yet politically active life had equipped him with the necessary basics to occupy his new portfolio.
"In all the structures that I have occupied, I have never used ‘I’ and am a firm believer in the collective. That is what drives me,” he said.
Vowing not to let the political polarisation currently plaguing the Bay infiltrate the youth wing, Makwetu said the ANCYL would be the centre of unity.
"We cannot let the youth be drawn into the political infighting and we are trying to address this polarisation by identifying the root cause and trying to bring everybody closer to achieve our objectives,” he said.
"Our main aim is to unite the ANC and its alliance, which is also seemingly divided.
"I don’t align myself with people who always say ‘yes’ to me because I believe that will be [political] suicide.”
ANC Youth League provincial deputy secretary Scara Njadayi said the congress’s delegates were happy with Makwetu’s track record.
"The youth league is not like the ANC. Here, you have to be 14 years old and a member of the ANCYL [to be elected] – that’s all it takes,” he said.