Politics chose me, says Rise Mzansi’s Mhlongo

Nonkululeko Mhlongo, premier candidate of the Rise Mzansi party. | Nqobile Mbonambi/ Independent Newspapers

Nonkululeko Mhlongo, premier candidate of the Rise Mzansi party. | Nqobile Mbonambi/ Independent Newspapers

Published Apr 12, 2024


Durban — The South African education system produces workers, not necessarily active citizens and people who can contribute to the economy, says Nonkululeko Hlongwane-Mhlongo, premier candidate of the Rise Mzansi party.

Born in KwaZulu-Natal, Mhlongo, 37, in an interview this week, elaborated on her vision for the political party and her focus and goals if she wins a seat in the legislature or municipalities.

Mhlongo believes that more “civic” education needs to be injected into the system and that the country needs more conversations around technology and understanding the political landscape.

“They have to start at school. You cannot speak to people outside of school going into tertiary who have been failed by the education system for issues they need to plug into and participate in democracy. Education is the most important part to look into,” Mhlongo said.

Mhlongo was raised in Ulundi in northern KZN. She now lives in Durban. Her father, Michael Hlongwane, died during the political unrest between the IFP and ANC in 1994. He had attended an IFP rally with his friends and as they left there was a confrontation.

Mhlongo finds balance in her work and lifestyle. She is a mother of three. She is focused on building the Rise Mzansi KZN brand.

Mhlongo said she first interacted with people in leadership positions in her community through her mother, Jabulile Hlongwane, who had a community kitchen in Umgababa, south of Durban.

Hlongwane worked in the health department. Mhlongo remembers accompanying her mother to the voting station. She recalls how they excitedly did the countdown when she was young.

“All of us grew up with the idea that regardless of how bad things are in the country and how frustrated you are as a young person, you have to vote as an active citizen. Politics chose me.

“I would never say no to an opportunity to realise and manifest things that were spoken about in civil society,” she said.

“It is crazy how I have not found the perfect combination of being a mother and wife in politics. It is a tricky balance. My kids have suffered the most. With the premier candidate position, it is a 5am to 10pm day. I leave when they are asleep and come back home while they are asleep,” she said.

Mhlongo said she had a deep understanding of KZN from the townships to the urban areas.

On crime, Mhlongo said it is influenced by unemployment, substance abuse and a lack of resources in the community.

“In the process of creating a successful society the infrastructure, school, and clinic must be able to cultivate an economy based in communities to generate the type of direction needed,” she said.

Mhlongo said being known at grassroots levels was very important. She said it was easy to make a name for herself on social media, but she preferred to be on the ground. Mhlongo said the public was disappointed with certain politicians and their false promises.

“To me, it is not about how many times articles about us are published. It is always about how much impact we have on the community,” she said.

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