With time comes change and the creation of new tradition.
This is also true for the sometimes sleepy seats of the National Assembly.
The house of Parliament had a wake-up call with the emergence of younger MPs.
Even the most traditional of political parties such as the IFP has had a youth revival with 32-year-old Mkhuleko Hlengwa set to take over Parliament's most critical committee, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts or Scopa.
The Scopa seat also raises Hlengwa’s ratings in the IFP, particularly now that IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi is to step down as party leader.
Hlengwa, who hails from the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast rural area of Mfume, is now set for his biggest role yet in the National Assembly as negotiations between the ANC and IFP saw the latter accepting the ruling party’s offer for the chairperson to become Themba Godi’s successor.
Hlengwa will not be entering into uncharted waters as he served on the committee between 2014 and 2019.
Following the IFP’s re-emergence in the 2016 local government elections, where it won several municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal, becoming the official opposition in KwaZulu-Natal following the May 8 elections and increasing its seats from 10 to 14 in the National Assembly, getting the Scopa chairpersonship is no doubt another significant victory for a rejuvenated IFP.
Narend Singh, IFP Chief Whip in the National Assembly, said the appointment resonated with their election campaign slogan “Trust Us”.
Singh added that it also meant a lot for their party’s policy of being firm on corruption, acting with honesty and integrity under the leadership of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and this had all paid dividends in the highest decision making body in the country.
Confirming the news on Friday, Singh said that Hlengwa’s five years serving on the standing committee on public accounts during the fifth Parliament would hold him in good stead as he now ascends to the committee’s chairpersonship.
“The reason we’ve nominated Hlengwa is that he’s young, meaning he ticks the box of being youthful and he’s very capable and astute.
“He has also served on Scopa for the last five years and has been very instrumental in asking relevant questions of accountability from all appeared before Scopa.
“We expect him to have learned from the experience that he gained from the five years he was in Scopa.
“We expect him to act without fear or favour. We expect him to ensure that he’s impartial in that committee and ensure that departments that come there are held fully accountable for any transgressions in financial management,” Singh said.
Hlengwa’s upward trajectory in politics is a clear indication of a young man who has given some of the party’s older heads a run for their money as he served in the National Assembly from the tender age of 27 in 2014.
Hlengwa was the third candidate on the IFP’s election list for 2019, has also served on the portfolio committee on international relations and co-operation, and was also an alternate member of the portfolio committee on public service and administration.
Amongst other committees that Hlengwa has served on include the portfolio committee on co-operative governance and traditional affairs between 2014 and 2016 and the portfolio committee on agriculture, forestry and fisheries from 2014 to 2015.
His appointment is also another indication of the changing political landscape in South Africa as Parliament has become slightly more youthful, with leaders such as EFF leader Julius Malema who is 38, while the DA leader Mmusi Maimane is 39.
Following the sixth democratic elections, numerous other young members of Parliament were sworn into the National Assembly as the call for a generational mix, which incorporated the youth, began taking shape.
Youthful ANC members of Parliament such as 25-year-old Fees Must Fall movement leader, Nompumelelo Mkhatshwa, 33-year-old Nomasonto Motaung, 34-year-old Moleboheng Modise, Jane Mananiso, 35 and Mikateko Mahlaule, also 35, were all sworn into the National Assembly.
The infusion of youth into Parliament was not only unique to the ANC as it also resonated with other political parties such as the EFF who have among their 44 members of parliament the 25-year-old Naledi Chirwa, who was at the forefront of the #FeesMustFall movement.
The DA boasts the youngest member in Parliament with 23-year-old Sibongiseni Ngcobo of Bulwer in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.