Bongani Dlamini

Mayor, Umtshezi Local Municipality

Bongani Dlamini wants to be able to make a difference in his community.

“Growing up in a rural area with no basic services and minimal attention paid to the community is one of the reasons I chose to be in politics — I want to make change happen, for the better,” says Dlamini.

In 2010, he became mayor of Umtshezi Local Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal, making him the youngest in South Africa to ever assume a mayoral role.

The goals he set were clear: to upskill, empower and ensure service delivery to his contituents. Since he took office the municipality has seen sweeping developments, with targeted upliftment programmes for youth, women and rural communities.

These include programmes to support women farmers and those in agro-processing, introducing a bursary scheme for local youths to study at university, leading the building of community-based early childhood development centres, introducing a driver’s licence learner programme, initiating private partnerships for the building of tarred roads and bus shelters, and electrification using renewable energy.

“For many years Umtshezi Local Municipality was rocked by a high rate of political intolerance. During my term of office as mayor of this municipality, I have managed to stabilise issues amongst political parties and to eliminate the element of political intolerance. I have worked to create a good working environment for all political parties, with the result that we now have a stable political environment and we work together to achieve much-needed development in rural communities.”

Just 33, Dlamini keeps his focus and is inspired by knowing where his community has come from, what they have achieved, and what they still have to achieve.

“Looking at how many lives we have improved, and believing in the plans we have to change many more lives in my community is what keeps me focused.”