Being a custodian of the public purse and resources makes the ANC an ideal target for professionals who quit their jobs with the hope of making a career out of politics. Not so for Leanne Williams, 36, who holds a master’s degree in banking and financial risk management.
This mother of two boys quit her cushy job in the financial services sector last year to pursue a political career, not with the ruling party, but with the little-known Patriotic Alliance (PA).
This political novice is the PA’s mayoral candidate for the City of Joburg, which polls have suggested will be one of the metros where the fight between the ANC and the DA will be at its fiercest.
Asked why she chose a young, little-known party, Williams says her life journey, filled with hardships, influenced her decision.
“The PA is the only party where leadership speaks to the hearts of people and about real daily struggles of the people. These include poverty, unemployment and social ills such as crime, drugs, teenage pregnancy and alcohol abuse.”
Adds Williams: “I was born in Eldorado Park in Beryl Street, commonly known as Beer Street. This is one of the most notorious streets in Eldorado Park. Most people born in this street die in that street because of alcohol and drug addiction.”
Williams says most of the people living in this street are unemployed school dropouts living on government grants.
“When I was five years old, my father, who was my hero, left us – my mother and two brothers – to be with a mistress he later married.
“When I was 19, I fell pregnant with my first child. When I was 21, I got married. At age 24, I was pregnant with my second child. Then I received the bad news that my brother was dying of Aids. He died three weeks later. Soon thereafter, my husband came home to tell me he had impregnated another woman. At 24, I felt there was no hope. I decided to take matters into my own hands and change my life.”
Williams says she studied further, and “today I have three university degrees”.
“Unlike other politicians, who see politics as a lucrative career, I really want to make a difference in other people’s lives.”
Williams took a swipe at Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema and President Jacob Zuma. She says the pair have never worked for a single day in their lives yet live like royalty at the expense of the poor, whose plight they claim to champion.
“I have worked myself up and I will never forget where I come from. I’ve been through dark times in my life and this makes me understand the importance of being a beacon of hope in someone else’s life.
“I fully understand this. In as far as my candidacy for Johannesburg in concerned, we are young and realistic.”
Williams is candid about the fact that her party will not win Joburg in today’s elections. However, she is hopeful her party will be kingmakers in one of the hotly contested metros.
“We are aiming for 5% of the vote. If we achieve this target, this will enable us to enter into a coalition with a party that will give us what we want – catering for the needs of the people.”
Williams says: “We aim to do well in all DA-controlled areas and we also want to give coloured people a voice, because not a single political party speaks to the needs of this group.”