Chris Pappas, the Democratic Alliance candidate for KwaZulu-Natal Premier is not your average white male DA politician.
Unlike those who have come before him and tried, he has built a cult-like following in KwaZulu-Natal where at just 32-years-old, is the mayor of the semi-rural uMngeni Municipality.
He has been able to make inroads into the rural and township areas of uMngeni Municipality and connect with the people because of his fluency in isiZulu.
People love him for it and if you monitor his Mayor Chris Pappas Facebook page which has swelled to over 76 000 followers in just a few short months you would notice how people - who are not typical DA voters - support Pappas and have been urging him to run for Premier ever since he became Mayor of uMngeni and turned that municipality’s fortunes around.
Born on August 26, 1991 in the KwaZulu-Natal capital city of Pietermaritzburg and raised amid the rolling landscapes of Mooi River, Pappas’ journey is one of relentless pursuit of knowledge and a deep commitment to his country.
He spent his formative years in the halls of KwaZulu-Natal’s elite private schools, attending Treverton Prep and later, Hilton College where he matriculated in 2009.
His adolescent years were marked by the tranquil surroundings of Howick, a place where his intellectual curiosity was nurtured and his passion for development and planning was kindled.
His academic journey led him to the University of Pretoria, where he pursued Town and Regional Planning, earning distinction for his dissertation, a masterpiece titled “Education Planning as a Tool for National Development.”
Pappas’ journey into the political arena began in the corridors of UP, where he joined Congress of the People (Cope), earning his stripes as the member for Academic Affairs on the Student Representative Council (SRC), and later ascending to the role of interim SRC president.
His political acumen and commitment to socio-economic development saw him securing his first employment as a Development Economist in 2013, focusing on impact studies for Independent Power Producers.
The DA, recognising his potential, welcomed him into their fold in KwaZulu-Natal, where he served as an Operations Manager for the Durban South area.
In 2016, his journey into full time politics saw him taking on a Durban ANC political heavy-weight in Fawzia Peer (who was deputy mayor of eThekwini Municipality) to represent the areas of Musgrave, Overport, and Sydenham on Durban's Berea in the local government elections.
Pappas, relatively unknown at the time, beat Peer and became the youngest ward councillor in eThekwini, where he contributed to the Economic Development and Planning committee and the Town Planning Appeals Committee.
His political journey is marked by a series of accolades and responsibilities, including chairing the DA’s Central Durban constituency and heading the 2019 election campaign for the metro, a campaign that saw the DA increase its voter share.
His leadership roles within the DA continued, serving as the deputy leader in KwaZulu-Natal until 2023.
In 2019, Chris made history as the youngest member of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature and the first DA mayor in KwaZulu-Natal in 2021, leading the team that wrested control of the uMngeni Municipality from the ANC by a slender margin of 42 votes.
His commitment to democracy, human rights, and anti-corruption efforts earned him an invitation from the US State Department to participate in an International Leadership Programme, and he is currently part of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Class of 2024.
He was recently named by Times Magazine as one of the 100 next leaders in 2023, continues his academic pursuits at UP, studying for a Masters in Town and Regional Planning.
His journey, marked by relentless pursuit of knowledge, commitment to his country, and a deep sense of justice, is seen as a beacon of hope for the many young people of KwaZulu-Natal who see in him their hopes and aspirations of a better country, led by the youth.