“If you build it, they will come.”
Every year since 2007, the DA enrolls twenty or so of South Africa’s best and brightest young people into our Young Leaders Programme (YLP). This is an intense year-long leadership development programme that turns young people with potential into young people with the political skills and knowledge they need to effectively lead and serve the party and the country.
It’s been highly successful so far, having attracted a diverse range of youngsters and produced such remarkable alumni as current Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, DA Chief Whip in the National Assembly Siviwe Gwarube, DA Head of Policy Gwen Ngwenya, DA National Spokespersons Solly Malatsi and Cilliers Brink, and uMngeni Mayor Chris Pappas – to name but a few.
The programme has run for 15 years, and the early cohorts are really coming into their own. Not a moment too soon. Now more than ever South Africa needs young people to step up to the plate and lead. Not least because young people in leadership add the dynamism and energy needed to attract the younger electorate and get them politically engaged to come out and vote for the future they want. But also because South Africa’s political system needs the youth skill set and long-term outlook. The current average age of parliamentarians is 60, while that of South Africa is 27.
While many fixate on the need for black leaders, the DA fixates on the need for good leaders. Individuals who make it onto the programme each year are those who have already demonstrated a high level of emotional intelligence, true desire to be involved in politics and public service, initiative, confidence, the ability to argue and reason well, a leadership track record, alignment to the DA’s values, and authentic commitment to our vision of building an open, opportunity society for all.
Those who graduate a year later have honed these attributes and acquired a thorough understanding of the DA’s principles and policies and in-depth knowledge of South African politics, political system and current affairs.
So it should come as no surprise that YLP alumni occupy the full gamut of leadership positions in the DA and South Africa, including as provincial ministers (MECs Reagen Allen, Daylin Mitchel, Mireille Wenger, Tertius Simmers), national shadow ministers (Cilliers Brink, Solly Malatsi, Zakhele Mbhele, Luyolo Mphiti, Emma Powell, Andrew Whitfield), DA provincial leaders (Solly Msimanga in Gauteng), members of mayoral councils (MMCs Zahid Badroodien in Cape Town, Motsamai Mokete in Midvaal, Lwando Nkamisa and Carli van Wyk in Stellenbosch), deputy chair of the DA’s federal council (Ashor Sarupen), heads of provincial ministries (Odette Slabbert), heads of DA departments (Aimee Franklin), councillors (Khathutshelo Rasilingwane in Ekurhuleni and others), chiefs of staff, provincial spokespersons and others, too many to mention.
This deep leadership pool has built the resilience that has seen our party through its many challenges and that will see us go from strength to strength in the years ahead.
Over the past decades and centuries, South Africans have prospered or suffered at the hands of good or bad leadership. Indeed, history shows that everything rises and falls on leadership. As South Africa approaches its moonshot election in 2024 – the country’s once-off chance to replace bad leadership with good while there is still something left to save – the need for a wide array of capable, solid leaders is as strong as ever. The DA’s Young Leaders Programme has been working toward this moment for fifteen years and it’s been a brilliant investment.
PS. Applications for the DA Young Leaders Programme are now open, and close on 31 August 2022. Click here to apply.