Makashule Gana says his age places him in better stead to lead Gauteng as premier. Picture: David Ritchie
Does age matter for the position of provincial premier? Since I announced my intention to run as the DA Gauteng premier candidate in April this year, this question has been raised by several people, with some claiming that I am too young to be the premier of Gauteng.

The latest person to make the “age claim” is political analyst Ralph Mathekga. The Star newspaper of June 12, 2018 quotes him as saying: “The DA has leaders like Herman Mashaba and Makashule Gana, but the latter is very young. Gana has not been in leadership positions.”

I would like to refute such claims and prove that I am indeed the best candidate to lead Gauteng.

Government leaders from the past 24 years tend to be much older and often out of touch with the important issues of 2018, such as high youth unemployment and high data costs for students. It is important to develop talent from a younger pool, and that the DA is the party with the best record showing, and succeeding in this.

For the record, I am 34 years old and in less than two months I will be turning 35. I don’t know how a 35-year-old can be said to be “very” young. If 35 is considered so young, I wonder what then is the “correct” or “suitable” age one must be to be considered old enough to lead.

In my 34 years of living, I have been a political activist and leader for 18 of those years. I have served as a public representative for the DA for the last 10 years, starting in Johannesburg as a councillor, then moved to the national Parliament and I am now serving as a member of the Gauteng provincial legislature. I have served as the national DA Youth leader, DA deputy federal chairperson and in 2016 I led the Midvaal campaign team that retained Midvaal with increased majority.

In the 34 years of living I have also been fortunate to earn a BSc degree in maths and computer science from the University of Limpopo, a postgraduate diploma in business management from Wits Business School and am currently completing a second degree in economics. Between 2005 and 2013 I worked in the technology departments at FNB and Absa as a software quality assurer and business analyst.

Those are only my qualifications and work experience. Leadership is a quality, often something that you cannot learn, but have. I had to lead from a young age. Having been brought up by a single mother, and being the eldest male child, I had to take care and support the family when my mother passed away when I was young. Leading the household forced me to learn the skills required as I had no choice but to step up.

The question that we should be preoccupying ourselves with is not the age of a candidate but rather what kind of leader Gauteng needs after the 2019 elections and mostly, whether I have the requisite skills for the position.

We have firmly entered the fourth industrial revolution with a focus on the digital economy. Gauteng needs a premier that has both the political leadership acumen and understanding of the technology/digital space. My task as a premier will be that of transforming Gauteng into a technology hub for the country and the continent, a Gauteng where innovative entrepreneurs will prosper and ­create much-needed jobs, especially for the youth. No matter my age, I am the person to do that and more.

I belong to a party that will not judge me based on my age but on my potential of both contributing to winning the national election and leading Gauteng. One of our competitive advantage as the DA is that we give opportunities to people regardless of age, hence our leader Mmusi Maimane was a mayoral candidate at the age of 31 and will be the presidential candidate at the age of 38, and Midvaal mayor Bongani Baloyi was voted in as a mayor at the age of 27.

The DA recognises the value that youthful leaders add to the party. Maybe Ralph meant to say that I am very young when I am compared with other political leaders such as David Makhura and the ageing cabinet members. Given the youthful population of the province, my age is actually not a liability but an added asset, both for the party and the people of Gauteng. Gauteng deserves new thinking and new ideas, and that is what I am bringing to the table.

* Makashule Gana, MPL, is an aspirant DA Gauteng premier candidate.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.