SINCE the firing of Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Zanoxolo Wayile and the resignation of ANC regional chairman Nceba Faku, a lot has been said about how well the two men performed as mayors.
During his tenure as ANC Nelson Mandela Bay region chairman, Faku became arrogant and felt he could bulldoze his way until his wishes were met. He made wild and outrageous utterances by inciting ANC supporters to torch The Herald building.
However, Faku remains the best mayor this metro has had so far. He had governance principles, a vision for the region and he was hands-on.
He came across as a strong character who got things done.
He was popular with all metro communities – black, white, coloured, Indian, etc. He was a people's mayor, he identified with the communities' problems and was not as aloof as Wayile was.
If there was a protest, he did not delegate but took it upon himself to go out to address the people. I have to be reminded of a single incident when Faku was shouted down or booed by protesting residents.
It is a pity that the good one does can be quickly erased by a single mistake. Faku's over-zealousness and attempts to appease his party during his term as ANC regional chairman has erased all the good he did as mayor.
I am not a fan of Faku, but I acknowledge the sterling work he did as mayor. As a journalist who worked on the municipal beat for 10 years, I had the privilege of interacting with both Wayile and Faku, total opposites – one drives a hard ball, and the other is timid and laid back.
Faku was assertive, hands-on, decisive, fearless, charismatic and hard working. He had this drive and wanted to see things done, and done urgently.
These qualities often landed him in trouble as he did not wait for consultation when he saw that a decision needed to be taken urgently and a project implemented. This was viewed by some of his colleagues as arrogance and dictatorial.
He was not afraid to take decisions, which is one of the attributes of a good leader. He used to think big and this is evidenced by the projects he initiated during his term in office.
The municipal international relations programme, which resulted in the establishment of sister city relationships with our metro and which has been mistakenly attributed to Wayile, is Faku's initiative. Wayile came in when the ball was already rolling.
Some of the projects Faku initiated during his term in office, which have made our metro a better place are:
ýThe formation of the Nelson Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA), tasked with urban renewal. This agency changed the central business district into a now environmentally friendly area where people can work and play.
ýThe beachfront beautification programme that saw the planting of flowers, plants and changing the aesthetics along Beach Road.
During his reign as mayor, Faku took one of the most unpopular decisions: banning alcohol at beaches, especially Pollok Beach. Before the alcohol ban, that area at Something Good resembled a tavern during holidays. A municipal bylaw was promulgated and the rot was stopped.
ýThe Vision 2020 projects show Faku's forward thinking vision. These were projects aimed at changing Nelson Mandela Bay into a tourism destination of choice. These included the Njoli development, a project which those who came after him, including Wayile, failed to take forward.
The other completed Vision 2020 project is the Red Location Museum precinct development.
ýFaku was ambitious to the extent that he even dreamt of demolishing the entire Strand Street freeways so as to open up the harbour precinct and link it with the CBD. His other interesting project was the proposed construction of an overhead walkway linking Pleinhuis to the City Hall.
There are numerous other projects he came up with: the metro police, the litter-picking project, the volunteer programme, the Port Elizabeth Airport terminal upgrade and many others. Years after he left, some of these projects still lie dormant.
On governance in the metro, he burnt his political bridges by firing then municipal manager Mzimasi Mangcotywa for alleged incompetence. This made him very unpopular with his ANC comrades, but he did not budge.
He also dismissed Thandeka Mali, who was a director for administration, again for alleged incompetence. This shows the man was committed to good governance as a mayor.
When he was elected the first South African black mayor in 1995, a New York Times journalist described him as "a lanky, younger version of Nelson Mandela". This shows how people internationally viewed his vision.
Wayile, as a trade unionist and worker organiser, was good, but not as a mayor of a metro with a budget of close to R10-billion, a staff complement of 7000 and a vibrant, boisterous trade union movement.
It took Wayile two years to appoint a municipal manager, and this shows a leader who is indecisive and not assertive. He procrastinates and lacks the charisma which oozes in Faku.
I understand his term in office was made difficult by the ANC's factionalism, but those are the hurdles a leader meets and one's ability as a good leader is judged on how you negotiate that bumpy terrain.
Max Matavire, Port Elizabeth