At the age of 26 Mbali Ntuli has made significant strides in the political arena as youth leader for the Democratic Alliance (DA). But being a leader has not stopped her from being critical of her own party….

Why doesn’t the DA Student Organisation at Wits have a presence?
We are only four years old as a youth wing so for the first two years we weren’t really able to contest in SRC elections because resources were focused on starting up the branches. We got a lot of young people in first and second year to head them up but then they enter honours year and they are under pressure and they let the ball fall so it’s all about leadership.

How successful has the DA been in using middle class black people to appeal to masses?
Two things, the first, neither Lindiwe [Mazibuko] or Mmusi [Maimane] or I actually are upper class in terms of our background, my mom was a teacher and my dad was a taxi driver. We are just in an age where black parents worked damn hard to get their children into middle class schools. I mean I work in Umlazi everyday giving them water, et cetera and they don’t give a fuck what I sound like when I speak English as long as I’m able to help them.

What are your thoughts on comments that the EFF could become the main opposition?
I’m surprised about how well the EFF has done but I don’t think they’ve done well enough to take over as the official opposition.

What do you make of the DA’s campaign?
Well I think the fact that we have grown in every election means that we are obviously doing something right. To be honest I think that this campaign has been different, 2011 was good, it was a positive campaign and people related well to our previous campaigns. It’s weird but this year my party’s been pretty negative in this campaign and I don’t think its sat well with some of us because we wanted to focus more on ourselves than the ANC and this [negative] strategy doesn’t work.

How much of a platform are young people given to contribute to the running of the party?
I sit on decision-making bodies that are the highest, like the federal council, but to be honest you need to have a lot of political capital to get stuff that you want pushed and I should technically be second after Helen [Zille] but that’s not how politics works. So it’s a balancing act and I think I don’t have as much power as I should as youth leader. So like the concert [at the DA election rally] we had on Saturday, I said to them ‘we need to not fucking bore people, it’s a fucking concert’ and 35% of the songs were slow jams, like who the fuck wants to go and listen to that?

How seriously are you taken as a young leader?
Most people, activists and members take me very seriously and that’s what matters more but I don’t think that some of our senior leaders take the youth as seriously as they should.
There’s a number of reasons, ageism being one. But I take great comfort in the fact that I’m probably going to outlive all of them so it doesn’t worry me so much now. But I’m also not the type of person who’s overly ambitious and trying to prove myself. I’m very happy to take my time and learn and grow.