He started his professional career as a journalist a decade and a half ago, moved on to become ANC national spokesperson and nowadays combines the latter position with a preoccupation with waste disposal.
More precisely, Pule Mabe’s focus lately has been on a tiny vehicle with a big environmental impact – and the politician-turned-spin doctor shared his other life as a self-proclaimed environmental activist and innovator with The Citizen.
Perhaps unbeknownst to all except his closest peers until last week, Mabe has a scientific study under his belt.
He researched the impact of a product he owns the patent on – a vehicle not much larger than a tuk-tuk – modified to transport solid waste in remote communities that large removal trucks cannot reach, densely populated areas such as informal settlements and poorly serviced urban and rural areas.
Conducted in the Ngwathe Municipality in the Free State, the study formed the basis of his dissertation for which he was awarded a masters degree in business leadership at the University of South Africa this week.
Asked where he sourced the resources to put together the prototypes for this, he said: “I did it myself. I have a company that only deals with this, Enviro Mobi.
“So, under Enviro Mobi, you have got various streams. One is for patents, then we have a company that deals with the industrial part, assembly. I assembled this.”
Mabe’s goal is to have this product manufactured locally and sold to municipalities and private waste management companies across the country.
He says he was inspired to get into the green economy by late environmental affairs minister Edna Molewa. She always made a point of educating her younger peers about the potential for job creation in waste management and the environmental sector, he adds.
In his paper, he mentions that one objective is to ensure there is scientific credence to his claim that the product has the potential to have a positive impact on the environment via waste management.
“The main purpose of the study was to determine the impact of Enviro Mobi Information and Service Delivery Platform on solid waste management within a municipality in South Africa,” the abstract reads.
“Furthermore, the findings of the study showed that only the collection service had an impact on the overall waste management performance.
“There was no statistical evidence to suggest transportation and disposal and treatment services had a significant impact on the overall portable waste management performance.
“It uses less fuel, it has less emissions, it is easy to operate, it is registered on the eNaTIS system and you can get a licence to operate it.
“It seats two people and we are now in the third generation. I am busy with the fourth generation.
“It has a seatbelt and I am now looking at airbags and putting doors on the sides because it must have two wheels on the side meaning it can now be a fully fledged car which can drive on the road.
“The significance of it is that in the front it looks like a tuk-tuk. At the back it looks like a bakkie.
“It has a tipping mechanism for waste and it can get inside deep waste.”
Born in 1980, Mabe was in the youngest generation involved in political activism in the tumultuous lead-up to the dawn of democracy.
As a child, Mabe’s schedule was packed with activities within his community, including working with a non-governmental organisation promoting voter education in 1993.
He was part of the iconic recorded performance of the song Peace In Our Land produced by music mogul Chicco Twala, which he remembers as the song where “we were responsible for releasing the doves”.
In 1992, he participated in the International Declaration of Children’s Rights, when he was about 12.
“But I had an opportunity as well in participating in the ushering in of the democratic dispensation.
“As a young 14-year-old, I participated in putting up the Peoples Choice posters of Tata Nelson Mandela.
“When [Mandela] was released in 1990, I was one of the youngsters whose parents had to fetch them from the local police station because we woke up early in the morning and started chanting ‘khulul’uMandela’.
“I was out in Phalaborwa, but we all believed that Nelson Mandela was going to arrive at the entrance to our own villages and townships and we would sing ‘khulul’uMandela’ as we were running to the entrance.”
He rose through the ranks of the ANC Youth League and had a short stint as a member of parliament before resigning in 2017.
He recently returned to his office as national spokesperson of the ANC after the party cleared him of sexual harassment charges from a former personal assistant.
Now a controversial political figure under constant media scrutiny, Mabe says he holds no grudges against the media for its criticisms.
“If we do wrong things, criticise us.
“If there are allegations of corruption against me, pose those questions to me and let me clarify to you that I am not a corrupt individual.
“If I am accused of a behaviour that could be seen not to be acceptable by society, let me clarify.
“When we are accused of anything it is our duty to always come out.”