Luyolo Mphithi

Director of political administration, City of Johannesburg

Many people claim they are called to politics because of strong ideals. As clichéd as that may sound, for Luyolo Mphithi, it rings true. Mphithi was drawn to politics by the conditions in his hometown, eSterkspruit, in the Eastern Cape.

“I struggled immensely as young person reflecting on the legacy of apartheid and my current reality. How was it possible that we still had long-drop toilets, no roads, and no running water?” says Mphithi. While grappling with these thoughts Mphithi had the chance in 2011 to be part of SABC 3’s Made in SA, in which young people gain the opportunity to be mentored by someone in a sector they’re interested in.

“I arrived at the head office of the City of Johannesburg to meet my mentor, Parks Tau, the then mayor of Johannesburg. After spending an entire day with him, I felt inspired to do more than just grapple with my thoughts on my hometown — I embarked on the path into politics.” Four years later, aged 23, he was elected as a proportional representation councillor in Meadowlands, Soweto, assisting residents with housing issues, service delivery and youth upliftment programmes.

Today Mphiti (25) is head of department for political administration in the office of the council chief whip, involved in strengthening inter-municipal relations through bilateral agreements that focus on the Gauteng City Region Vision. He is also responsible for helping Johannesburg residents lay complaints against councillors who are not delivering on their mandates. Mphithi’s other inspirations are his mother and grandmother, who remind him daily that he is capable of everything he puts his mind to. “They remind me to always invest in my mind, because a strong mind can overcome and achieve anything,” he says. Mphithi is doing exactly that.

He holds certificates from the International Academy of Leadership in Germany and Bowdoin College and Syracuse University in the US. He has received various awards, including the Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Scholarship 2011, Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship 2013, the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship 2015, and the Mandela Washington Fellowship (Barack Obama’s flagship leadership programme) 2016. He is a graduate of the DA’s Young Leaders Programme and has served in numerous roles in the DA such as Democratic Alliance Student Organisation leader at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2012 and Gauteng deputy chair for DA Youth in 2012.

— Linda Doke

Twitter: @RevLuyolo