Dear Zandile

Howzit sisi

I hope all is well and that you are happily ensconced in your new office and enjoying the trappings of power.

I am deeply envious of you, as you well know.

Not because you are chums with Umshini Wami, rather because you occupy the office I have coveted for so long.

Anyway, enough sour grapes.

Good luck, I am sure you are going to need it.

I must kick off by congratulating you. I never credited you with as much savvy as you have displayed in your first week in office.

Your inaugural address at City Hall was proactive in that you laid out your priorities. I may not be mad about all of them, but at least you started committing to a public deal.

I don’t know if dear old James the Insignificant ever did that.

Or if he did, he didn’t tell anyone. (I don’t want to be unkind, Zandile, he seems like a very likeable chap, but a tad lackluster, hey?).

So, if we go past the platitudes in your speech about the city’s great track record in service delivery, you were correct to say “we cannot live on past achievements” (contested though those are).

Getting the basics right is always appealing to citizens.

You said: “Our streets must be clean, roads must be without potholes, waste must be collected weekly, our street lamps must work, households and businesses must have regular power supply, issues of health and safety must be addressed and water and sanitation are also on our list of priorities”.

Naturally, that is what municipalities do. But I’m glad you are registering that from get go, because politicians and officials do tend to get side tracked because so many have their bums in the butter.

Zandile, I agree, we must eradicate slums and relook our housing models. It irritates me, though, that we somehow don’t attract champions for various city challenges.

In Durban there are people more talented and clever than you and I who could champion alternative, sustainable housing solutions, for example.

They could facilitate collaboration between role players to meaningfully improve people’s lives, quickly.

Who is the city’s housing champion? Who burns with zeal on the subject? I bet it is not the city’s head of housing, or am I wrong?

Equally, we need to clean up, but who is seized with the issue of recycling?

Our streets wouldn’t be litter strewn if we commoditized recyclable junk, of which there is so much.

You say, Zandile, that we must have a corruption free city.

Well, sister, there is an easy way to do that. Publicize every detail of every tender and contract that the city awards.

Do it on a website and start the initiative this week.

It’s dead simple and it will protect you from untold dramas.

You preside over a big purse: make sure you spend every cent of our R43 billion wisely.

It is not your dosh nor the ANC’s and frequent reminders to the comrades of this is a good thing.

As for the “challenge” with the municipal bus service. Just tell JZ’s nephew the deal is off.

The ANC has squandered hundreds of millions on the Jay Singh fiasco and with Mandla Gcaba.

It is stupid to pay somebody to do something you can do yourself, especially if they aren’t doing it properly.

You spoke about partnering with local educational institutions to ensure we equip youngsters with the right skills.

Ditch that idea, Zandile, you run a municipality, not a university.

Don’t get sidetracked. You said you’d carry on with the roll out of free Wi-Fi, cool: connectivity helps people do better business.

I like your idea of a Mayoral Lekgotla to “provide political direction on our plan for the next five years”. Make it an open process and encourage stakeholder participation. At the end, reduce your plan to 10, easily accessible and understandable points that holds you and your fellow 219 councillors accountable.

In fact, go further, ask each councillor to list the 10 priorities in their wards and get them to address these at mandatory monthly ward meetings. Demand they post feedback from those monthly meetings on Bookface.

It’s not going to be difficulty, this gig, Zandile, if you are true to your pledge that elected councillors serve citizens with respect and humility and conduct council’s affairs honestly and transparently.

I’m going to hold you to this.

Cheers

Greg