Born in Soweto, Senaoane Manku Noruka was introduced to politics while still at high school in the late 1980s. With political activity highly suppressed by the apartheid regime at the time, her political growth was primarily facilitated by reading, a hobby she credits for shaping the person she is today. A book which shaped her thinking and still informs her political activism is ‘I Write What I Like’ a collection of essays by Steve Biko. “I write what I like, introduced me to the black consciousness philosophy, which till this day informs my worldview” says Manku. In the 1980’s Manku was also exposed to Letsetse, which was a mobilising pamphlet produced by the then exiled Black Consciousness Movement of Azania(BCMA).
The book that she credits for “sealing the deal” is the then banned ‘And Night Fell: Memoirs of a Political Prisoner in South Africa by Molefe Pheto. Thinking about those days “it is amazing that in this country reading certain books was once a criminal act, in fact an act of terrorism in the eyes of the apartheid state” says Manku. Today she considers it a privilege to be serving in the same Standing Committee of the Azanian Peoples Organisation (AZAPO) with Ntate Molefe Pheto the author of “ And the night fell”.
In 1992, Manku registered for a Bachelor’s Degree at Vista University’s Soweto campus. There she was instrumental in setting up a branch of the Azanian Students’ Convention (AZASCO) , a student formation of AZAPO. The following year she was elected to be the branch organiser, a position she held till 1995. “ Being a branch organiser was not easy, it meant you had to be at the forefront of building the organisation on campus and recruiting members. One had to quickly learn how to relate the core believes and mission of the organisation to the daily lives of students” says Manku. In 1997 Manku was elected to the National Executive Committee of AZASCO “the most influential leadership in the history of AZASCO” as the Gender Officer.
After leaving student politics, in 2001 Manku joined the Phiri branch of the Azanian Youth Organisation (AZAYO) another formation of AZAPO. This period was followed by a “seven years break from political activism” in which she devoted herself to her family. In 2009 “I reactivated my political involvement and became active in AZAPO”. In 2010 Manku was elected to serve in the Standing Committee of AZAPO as Secretary for Gender and Women Affairs, a position which she holds to date. Speaking about her influences, Manku states that “ My thinking about race, gender and class is deeply influenced by authors such as Alice Walker and bell hooks; and the Womanist and Marxist Feminist traditions”.
At the 22nd National Congress of AZAPO was elected to serve as Secretary General, in the Select Leadership Committee