The Oxford graduate, author and rapper talks family, politics and AKA
Words: Maxinne Mboweni | Photography: Chisanga Mubanga
Meet the powerful young voice helping us make sense of the chaos that is South Africa. Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh is an academic and political protégé whose love for politics runs through his blood. A one time member of the Orlando Pirates youth team, Sizwe went on to focus on academics becoming president of the University of Cape Town's Student Representative Council where he was the first to successfully challenge the university's proposed fees increase. As an Oxford University graduate he was involved the Rhodes Must Fall campaign. Then, no stranger to hip-hop having formed rap group Entity with AKA while attending St John's College, his solo single 'Mr. President' was featured in the Wall Street Journal! Last year Sizwe published his debut book Democracy and Delusion 10 myths and South African Politics alongside a rap album of the same title. Which is why The Way of Us simply had to visit Sizwe at his home in Saxonworld to find out more about this fascinating young man.
Could you describe your style in one sentence?
Oxford academic meets sneakerhead.
You have described your time at St Johns’ College as an alienating experience, how so?
I think there are many conversations on the experiences one goes through at boy’s schools that many people are just now starting to have. From the hypermasculinity to race, it was a very confusing period, it’s something you only realise afterwards.
You come from a very political family, who would you say you inherited your love for politics from?
I was essentially born as a product of politics. My mother – being a single mother had a huge influence on me. I think people assume it’s my father (Dali Mpofu), but my mom was actually quite the activist in her time. She even beat my father at an ANC branch vote. I’d say she influenced a lot of my love for politics.
Having gone to school at Oxford and having what most would deem a charmed life, do you sometimes feel like people may find you unrelatable?
I think my multiple facets make me more interesting and able to relate to more people. People may think I’m mixed race and went to a privileged school hence they can’t relate, but I also spent a lot of time in rural Eastern Cape during my youth. I’ve navigated many different spaces. I think my hybridity makes me relatable.
The title of the book is Democracy and Delusions, you are kind of hinting at the fact that Democracy may be a flawed concept, right?
Yes definitely. A large majority of us have been disappointed by our government and the lack of accountability. But with these new changes we will see what lies ahead.
What inspired you to incorporate a rap album with your book?
I have always loved rap and, and I wanted a more accessible point of reference for younger people to engage with South African politics. One is not less complex than the other though.
Speaking of music… Many don’t know but you were part of the infamous rap group Entity with AKA. What happened to you guys?
[laughs] This question seems to haunt me. Well eventually after high school when I got accepted into The University of Cape Town and Nhlanhla (Makenna) got into law school at Wits, it wasn’t really possible to stay together. I guess I chose academics.
What does the future hold for you?
Well right now I’m completing my PhD at Oxford while staying in Joburg. As for the future, I have political aspirations, so who knows what 2018 holds in store.