Ex-Bay woman blooms in Cope limelight

FOR a woman thrust into the political spotlight as the third in charge of newly formed Congress of the People (Cope) three weeks ago, Lynda Odendaal, who hails from Nelson Mandela Bay, shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

Standing little over 1,5m tall the diminutive Odendaal, 44, has already shown her size has nothing to do with her political stamina, working almost non- stop during the most crucial time for party campaigners – the build-up to this year‘s elections in May.

“The first week was a bit of a challenge in terms of media coverage,” admitted Odendaal, who now lives in Johannesburg. She was speaking to Weekend Post in between busy meetings on Thursday.

“The (frantic way of life) is natural now, except for the media attention. But it‘s important we communicate with our members and potential members and I want to maintain that.”

Having grown up in Uitenhage where she attended Riebeek College, Odendaal later went on to study at commercial college Beckleys in Port Elizabeth. Then she wasted no time in getting into business.

“I‘ve been in commerce for the last 20 years,” she said.

She left her position as chief executive of Network Support Services, an information and communication technology company, to focus on her burgeoning political career.

An enterprising business woman, Odendaal also owns recruitment, development and human resources companies which she keeps an eye on while not strategising with party officials ahead of Cope‘s election manifesto launch in the Bay on January 24.

But she insists her foray into politics was never planned.

“I haven‘t been actively involved politically up until now,” she said. “I‘ve been more involved with issues like women‘s rights and transformation and I still want to play an active part because there is still a lot to be done in these areas.”

Despite her hectic schedule, Odendaal managed to spend some quality family time over Christmas, quietly sneaking back home to visit her parents Anna and John in Uitenhage from December 24 to January 4, with her husband André and 12-year-old son. She also has three grown up children.

“I was in church with my parents on Christmas Day. I sneaked in and spent some time with my family. It‘s important. You never know when you‘ll get that time again.”

The decision to name her as the second deputy president of the party came as a shock even to Odendaal who found out about her new position just hours before Cope was officially launched in Bloemfontein on December 16. Many had expected ex-ANC Eastern Cape Amathole region chairman Mluleki George to be third in charge, but he was named national organiser instead. Since the launch there has been no let-up from the media wanting to know more about the woman who until last month was relatively unknown.

Observers believe Odendaal‘s appointment was a deliberate bid to attract voters looking for a different profile to the ANC, as well as to further Cope‘s bid to be “an inclusive” party, rather than appealing to any one race group.

With her pale face and blonde hair, she stands out among the Cope leadership previously associated with the ANC.

While she burst onto the scene in a similar fashion to US Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Odendaal by contrast speaks with clarity and a definite strategy.

Having begun work with the party behind the scenes after being moved by a radio interview with Cope president Mosioua “Terror” Lekota, Odendaal said it was Lekota‘s talk of change which struck a chord.

source Weekend Post