‘WHATEVER POSITIONS WE MAY OCCUPY, WE SHOULD REMAIN ACCESSIBLE TO OUR PEOPLE’
THE new Minister of Transport Joe Maswanganyi has embraced characteristics of his political mentor, the late Collins Chabane.
He is humble, modest, accessible but unwavering in championing the right of the poor.
As I sat with him for an interview, his cellphone kept on ringing and he kept on answering it. One of the callers was a member of the public who was complaining that because there was heavy traffic on the N1 south after the long weekend, there were some motorists who were driving on the incoming lane, thus endangering the lives of other motorists.
Maswanganyi politely told the caller that he would alert the MEC to send traffic officers and thanked the caller for being a good citizen.
“I grew up in a village. Respect for people, regardless of their social standing, is second to nature. You also have to listen to all people and offer help when you can. Sometimes they help you – all you can offer is just to listen. Whatever positions we may occupy, we should remain accessible to our people. After all, we got involved in the Struggle to serve the people and improve their lives,” says Maswanganyi.
Maswanganyi is a seasoned political activist who served as deputy president of the ANC Youth League when Malusi Gigaba, the current finance minister, was the leader of the young lions.
Maswanganyi was born in a village near Malamulele in Limpopo on April 14 1966. His mother Diana had two children. His father, Solomon Gezani Maswanganyi had 11 children from his four wives.
“We were an ordinary village family that was trapped in poverty just like many others in the area. My mother was unemployed and supplemented the family income by selling homebrewed beer.
“After passing matric at Hlalukweni High School in 1986, I wanted to further my studies at the University of the North. However, due to lack of funds, I had to look for a job.”
He spent 1987 working as an unqualified teacher at a local school. The following year, he registered for a teachers’ diploma at Tivumbeni College outside Tzaneen. The college was a hive of political activities with political firebrands such as Cassel Mathale, Diamond Mushwana and the late Derrick Masuku.
“We were in the company of seasoned politicians from the UDF and Azapo. We never clashed although we differed ideologically. There was a general understanding that the objective was the same – which was total liberation,” says Maswanganyi.
After qualifying as a teacher, Maswanganyi went back to his former high school and became a teacher.
After the unbanning of the ANC, Maswanganyi was part of the youth leaders who were responsible for the re-launch of the ANC Youth League in Limpopo. He worked closely with youth leaders such as Thabo Masebe and Rudzani Murovhi. Nationally, the youth leaders were led by Peter Mokaba.
In 1994, Maswanganyi was the chairperson of the ANC Youth League in Limpopo. In 1998, he was elected deputy president of the ANC Youth League.
He was elected to serve in the ANC provincial executive committee in 2001. He had been a member of the Limpopo legislature since 1994 until 2008 when he was elected provincial secretary.
He has served as MEC for Local Government and Housing and as MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture.
In June 2015, he was redeployed to national assembly as an MP and served in the transport portfolio.
He was appointed Transport Minister in March this year.
Despite his active political life, Maswanganyi continued to pursue his passion – education.
He has a BA degree from Unisa, majoring in African Politics and History. He also holds a Masters Degree in Governance and Political Transformation from the University of Free State. He also has a Masters degree in Political Science from University of Venda. "As political leaders, I believe that we are role models to our young people. We should inspire them to study and excel in various fields.
"Knowledge is a very important commodity.
Countries that are highly developed, have succeded because they invested in knowledge economy. We need skills and education to respond to the challenges facing our country.
We should always have a quest for more knowledge."