Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy.
THE City of Cape Town’s Xanthea Limberg may be petite, but she is tough as nails and can stand her ground in a world dominated by men.

She was appointed mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy earlier this year, just as the water crisis started escalating.

Limberg was born in Cape Town, then moved to Durban, Joburg and Zambia.

She lived in Zambia for two years and then returned to Cape Town to complete her last year of high school.

“As a child I always knew I would be in politics and I would contribute to my country,” she said.

She studied politics and public policy at UCT and joined the Independent Democrats student body.

“I interned as a researcher at the Independent Democrats national offices in 2008/2009. I was still studying at the time. It was initially a voluntary role until it emerged into a far more formal role,” she said.

Limberg said the role became more formal in 2010 and she worked at the ID Western Cape provincial office as a researcher.

“In 2010 a lot things happened and there was the merging of the DA and the ID. I was encouraged to apply to become a councillor. I thought I would try,” she added.

At 30, Limberg’s list of achievements is long. Her age and stature have by no means restricted her from achieving her goals as she sits on a number of boards and structures.

But she said that because of her small stature, people sometimes mistake her for a 15-year-old.

“Sometimes (at the civic centre) I get asked if I am visiting my mother’s office,” she said.

However, Limberg is all work and no play.

“I don’t think I have a balance. It is difficult to have a balance as I need to prioritise work.

“The focus on water has increased my load.”

She said she usually works Monday to Saturday.

“Other than city work, I am also busy with political party work.”

With her turning 31 in a few weeks time and not having a child or being married the question of when she plans to settle down is asked all the time.

She said when the time was right she would probably get married, but right now work was her priority.

“I enjoy what I do. I gain a lot of experience. Every day I learn something new. The complexity of this role brings new opportunities to learn.”

“Sometimes I have to automatically speak on a topic. Sometimes I can get things wrong.”

However, she said is not afraid to admit to not knowing something and then going back to find out.

Her role, she said, sometimes means people take out their frustrations on her.

“Sometimes people WhatsApp me, call me on my cell number and even on my home number to express their concerns. I always try and remain accessible to them.”

There is no hard partying for her as there is for some other people her age. Instead she is in a position to influence policy and improve people’s living conditions.

“Sometimes one has to make sacrifices in order to see the benefits. But luckily for me I don’t have wild, crazy friends.”

On her day off, which is usually a Sunday, she enjoys relaxing with her family and dog as well reading books on architecture and interior design.

She admits her mother buys these books, magazines and even her clothing as she very seldom has the time to do so.

Her advice to young people is to make a positive contribution to the country in one way or another.

“You can make your contribution and create the South Africa you want,” said Limberg.