It’s a Wednesday afternoon and the National Assembly chamber at parliament is packed. And why wouldn’t it be? On the agenda is a snap debate on the contentious landing of the infamous Gupta jet at the Waterkloof Airforce Base in Pretoria.
As expected, the debate is a heated one in which heckling and character slaying are rampant. But there’s one particular comment that arouses the audience’s ire when Azapo MP Jakes Dikobo takes the stand to make a speech. “If South Africa was a woman, the Gupta incident would amount to rape,” he declares. MPs on both sides of the house gasp for breath. But the honourable Dikobo is not getting away with the metaphor. From the ANC’s benches Mmamoloko Kubayi (35), deputy chief whip, jumps up and raises a point of order.
“I couldn’t believe my ears,” she says. We’re sitting in her cosy office in the Old Assembly recalling the controversial statement that day. “You know, we’re living in a society where gender violence is so extreme. I know of so many women who have been victims of rape. And then someone gets up and makes a statement about rape – that’s not on. People need to be sensitive. I don’t know if the honourable Dikobo’s statement was out of ignorance or if he wanted to make a point. Nevertheless, I felt it was wrong.”
The ANC has always been good at spotting young talent and the appointment of Kubayi to the inf luential position of deputy chief whip was no exception. Her fellow MPs hold her in high regard and there’s consensus that she is one of the ruling party’s rising stars.
She acknowledges it’s been a steep learning curve since she became a member of parliament in 2009. “Hey, I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve had many different roles – whip (in