Mduduzi Manana

When he was growing up in Mpumalanga Mduduzi Manana wanted to be a history teacher because he wanted to understand how the past shaped the present and to teach young people to do the same. As Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training he is not teaching history today, but he’s certainly making it. He has led initiatives that have changed the face of higher education in South Africa. One of them was the Apply Now campaign, which contributed this year to curbing long queues of desperate students applying late to universities as well as avoiding potential stampedes like the one in 2012 that left the mother of a prospective University of Johannesburg student dead. At 25 Manana became the youngest member of Parliament (MP) in South Africa’s history. But if you know his personal history this comes as no surprise. The involvement in the struggle of his parents and grandfather, staunch ANC supporters, laid the foundation for Manana’s involvement in the battle for democracy. It was a concept he fought for from the age of 14 as a member of the Congress of South African Students and the ANC Youth League throughout high school and at the then University of Natal. After graduating he entered the business world but also continued to work his way up the ANC ladder. After the 2009 elections he was invited to become an MP. Three years later President Jacob Zuma asked him to take his place as Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training. Today this 29-year-old is hoping for one thing: that he can use his power to ensure that many more thousands of young people have access to higher education and can get the skills they need to find jobs and contribute to the economy, because that is the only way, he says, that the scourge of unemployment, inequality and poverty can be defeated. — Victoria John