Mr Mduduzi Comfort Manana possesses leadership wisdom that belies his age.He has dedicated his life to developing those who are on the margins through his drive and passion for youth development. For him young people should be prepared at an early age for the role to lead society for their own future prospects. He strongly believes that one of the ways to realise this possibility is by encouraging young people to be informed, to be engaged, to be educated and to be selfless in uplifting others. He also believes that government and the private sector in particular can help the youth of South Africa to be skilled so that they are able to build a solid foundation for the future of our nation.
Politics has coursed in Manana's veins from a young age. Born and bred in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, his political family opened his eyes to the social injustices that continued to torment the people of South Africa even in post‐Apartheid South Africa. In 1998 at age 14, he joined the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) and the ANC Youth League (ANCYL). Years later, he was elected as the Chairperson of the ANC Youth League at the Nombali Mkhwanazi Branch for three consecutive terms and Branch Treasurer of the ANC for two consecutive terms. He rose to the ranks of the Regional Executive Committee of the ANC Youth League as a REC member. He further served as a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC Youth League for two consecutive terms (serving in the finance sub‐committee) since 2008. He enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand for a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Politics and International Relations and later transferred to the University of Natal (now UKZN) where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Sociology. Ever an activist, at 19 years of age he was part of the 33 South Africans who volunteered as human shields during the second War of the Gulf that ensued in the Middle East in 2003.
Manana has the distinction of being the youngest Member of Parliament, a role he assumed after the 2009 General Elections. He served as a member of the International Relations & Cooperation Portfolio Committee and the Public Works Portfolio Committee. He was later appointed as Whip of the Transport Portfolio Committee and later redeployed to the Public Service & Administration Portfolio Committee (again as Whip).
In 2011, he was appointed as Cluster Whip of the Governance and Monitoring Cluster in parliament and he also chaired the Steering Committee on Youth Parliament. He also served as the Commissioner of the Magistrates Commission (a body that appoints and oversees the work of magistrates in South Africa) and he was appointed as Chairperson of the Mpumalanga Judicial Committee on Lower Courts.
In June 2012, the President appointed him as the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, making him the youngest member of the National Executive since the new democratic dispensation.
After the country's 2014 General Elections, he was re-appointed to the same portfolio. His grasp of challenges facing young students is acute, thanks to his own student activism within the South African Student Congress (SASCO). He understands the plight of students who often have to go to lectures hungry and those whose academic talent gets shelved because of financial exclusions. Not one to accept the status quo, in his new role, he is already championing the idea of strengthening the role of student organizations at institutions of higher learning. He firmly believes that student organizations should be part of the solutions to many existing challenges at post‐school learning institutions by providing responsible student leadership and caring management at these institutions.
But it is not always work and no play for Manana. To relax he plays golf and reads political books.