Faith Ntakadzeni Phathela, an independent candidate from Vhembe. Photo: Elardus van Zyl.

You got to put some faith in Faith on election day

News - Date: 25 May 2024


Voting day is drawing ever closer, bringing both uncertainty and excitement, especially for those who have never cast their votes before. This year’s election is unique in that, for the first time since 1994, South African citizens can vote for independent candidates within their districts and provinces.

The Limpopo Province has the honour of featuring three of these independent candidates, with two coming from the Vhembe region. One of the independent candidates, Faith Ntakadzeni Phathela, was born in Thohoyandou but grew up in Louis Trichardt.

Ms. Phathela, still young and full of life, was born on 31 October 1987 and is the eldest of six children. Raised as a devout Christian by her two parents, who are both pastors, she later moved to Louis Trichardt with her parents, where she matriculated from Louis Trichardt High School in 2006. She then went on to study for a B. Com degree at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). After completing her studies, she trained as a government auditor in KwaZulu-Natal for 3 years.

Faith visited the offices of the Limpopo Mirror and Zoutpansberger last week to share her vision for the future. She is running under the campaign: “Faith to Parliament.” When asked about her movement, she said it stemmed from what she believed waas a spiritual calling to serve the nation as a member of parliament. “In 2022, I did 40 days of fasting, and that was when God said, 'I have made you to serve the nation as a member of parliament. Go and make policies that will make people say ‘Kumnandi iNingizimu Afrika’ (It is wonderful in South Africa).’”

However, Faith did not want to follow the “traditional” route, which implies joining an existing political party or starting her own party. She discovered that legislation was in the process of changing, which would bring the possibility for independent thinkers like herself to become members of parliament.

“There was a legal battle in court involving the president and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). The constitution allows us to associate with a party, but it also allows us not to associate. You don't have to be forced to join a party to serve the people. They had to go back and amend the laws to allow independent candidates to come in. It might be new for South Africa, but it’s not new in the world; there are countries with independent candidates serving at that level. I chose this route because when you work under a party, you must do what the party wants you to do. I don't want to find myself conflicted, having to ask permission to do something and then being told no.”

For Faith, the task of being a leader comes naturally. She plays an active role in community structures within the Vhembe District, especially among religious groups. She regularly communicates with different church leaders to listen to the frustrations and struggles of people in town. She also believes that, as South Africans, people should help each other and have a collective support system, with a government that cares for its people, not just a select few who benefit from it.

When asked about the challenges she saw in Vhembe, she echoed the concerns that many people have voiced for years: water shortages, students and workers who cannot function because of load shedding, the poor condition of the roads, and ineffective policies affecting the people.

“We need to provide free basic electricity and free basic water to all. If you use more than a certain amount, then you start to pay, but there must be that free element. That can help a lot. At least then, the government is looking out for us and cares about us,” she said.


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