THE Buffalo City Metro Council has appointed Zukiswa Ncitha as the Executive Mayor of Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality. She took oath on Tuesday 31 May 2011 together with 99 councillors.
Zukiswa Veronica Ncitha was born in New Brighton in Port Elizabeth.
She did her primary education in Port Elizabeth, at the time when the city was the political hub of Black activism in the Eastern Cape. This effectively molded her budding character around the ideals of liberation and the struggle for freedom and equality for all South Africans.
In 1976 she started her higher education career at New Brighton High School, and was immediately plunged head-on into the volatile environment of student politics and Black Consciousness. The young Ncitha soon developed a flair for socialist themes, and was instrumental in the establishment of an active cell of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) in the city.
Her formal education and training in liberation politics started in 1978, when she was introduced to the underground activities of the African National Congress. By that time, her brother was already an operative of Umkhonto Wesizwe (MK), the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC), and this had an encouraging effect on Ncitha's youthful enthusiasm.
Her political activities soon caught the attention of the state security machinery, thus marking the beginning of relentless harassment by the then Bureau of State Security. The situation became so bad that, to safeguard her life and to ensure that she continued in her educational career unhindered, Ncitha's family moved her to Mdantsane, near East London where she continued her high school education at Philemon Ngcelwane High School.
But Ncitha could not control her political enthusiasm, and was soon involved in political structures in Mdantsane and around East London. She became very active in the struggle leading to the formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the Border Region, and the mobilisation of the youth around the cause of liberation and the unbanning of people's organizations. This time she could not escape the wrath of the security forces, and she was dully arrested and detained in Mdantsane.
Ncitha started working as a factory worker in 1989 in East London. She quickly moved up to the rank of shop steward, and was elevated to the status of Deputy Chairperson of the regional structure of the National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), and later to represent the region in NUMSA's National Finance Committee.
Ongoing harassment by security police disturbed her education career, as she could not attend public institutions for fear of victimization. But this did not deter her from furthering her studies privately, and in 1994 she was rewarded with a certificate in Macro Economic Policy studies from Wits Business School. In 2009 she completed a Municipal Executive Leadership Programme course with Pretoria University.
She participated in the participatory policy research project of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), and was part of the delegation that went to Canada as part of the programme.
In 1990 she was elected COSATU's Gender Convenor in the Border Region. In 1994 COSATU seconded her to the Office of the Premier to set up the Provincial Gender Machinery, which resulted in the establishment of the Office on the Status of Women in the province. She was subsequently elected as a member of the Provincial Women Coalition Committee.
In 1999 she became an executive member of the National Women's Coalition, and in 2006 she participated in the formation of the Progressive Women's Movement.
In 2007, Ncitha became a member of the Central Committee of the South African Communist Party (SACP), and was elected Convener of the Gender Transformation Commission. She represented the SACP in the historic Congress of the Left, which was held in Sweden, where she presented the Gender Transformation programme of the Party.
In 2008 she was again included in the SACP delegation to CUBA to study that country's political, systematic and functional organization as a communist model.
Ncitha entered the Local Government arena in 2000, as one of the first Councillors of the new-dispensation Amathole District Municipality (ADM), and was immediately assigned the Community Liaison and Participation portfolio. She held this position until 2006, when she was moved to head the Administration and Asset Management portfolio. In 2009 she was further elevated to the position of Speaker of Council at the ADM.
On 31 May 2011, Zukiswa Ncitha was elected as the first Executive Mayor of the newly-established Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality.
She remains an uncompromising champion of the cause of women. She is currently Convenor for the Eastern Cape branch of the Progressive Women's Movement, and is very active in local women's structures.
Of all the people who have worked together to shape her early life and character, Ncitha regards her late uncle as her most influential role model. A carpenter by profession, he was a peaceful yet unyielding activist for workers' rights. He was later blinded by diabetes, but refused to be dependent on other people. He would find his own way around the house, and he continued to engage friends and visitors politically. He lived with this debilitating condition for thirty long years – never complaining; but at peace with himself and those around him. This strong sense of purpose and spirit of survival remains a source of inspiration for Ncitha in both her political and private life.