BEING addressed as “mayor” draws an awkward laugh from Zanoxolo Wayile. It has been nearly a month since he relinquished that title and went on to join a handful of ANC MPs from Nelson Mandela Bay – the city he was in charge of for four years before being axed by President Jacob Zuma.
On Tuesday, he was sworn in at parliament, a role he says is so far a welcome relief from the “unbearable” situation in the Bay.
“Even the Speaker of parliament [Max Sisulu] joked yesterday that he had not seen anyone so energetic in a while,” an upbeat Wayile said.
“I’m very optimistic. I am willing to learn and adapt to the guidance of other members of parliament. I want to draw lessons from a number of people who started this journey in 1994.
“Let alone that the situation in the metro was unbearable … the lack of team support and political support – here things are different. There is support and the ANC caucus at this level is far more organised.”
It is support he no doubt appreciates after the last two years spent constantly at loggerheads with the very comrades who elevated him to the Bay’s first office when former mayor Nondumiso Maphazi was tossed out four years ago.
Wayile later lost favour when he became “his own man” and would not toe the party line, as his detractors claimed. The situation was perhaps worsened by his public defiance of any instructions from the party that he believed were untoward.
“My mouth is not an Avis car, it is not rented. I say what I have to,” he quipped, but stressed he was a committed cadre and that his new task was simply another way for him to serve the ANC and the nation.
“I believe there is no way we can pursue economic development without a conducive political climate and a clear strategy of our goals.”
He has yet to be given a constituency to represent and has not been appointed to a portfolio committee yet.
“By next week I’ll know and I am determined to do everything to serve to the best of my ability, whatever the constituency or committee.”
His passion, he said, was economic development and sports and recreation. “I’m not an economist but my history in the trade union movement has exposed me to issues of our economy and it is what I was driving during my time in the metro.
“Sport is in my heart. I used to play soccer and rugby. I have been involved in the promotion of various tournaments in the metro.
“I believe if you are talking sports, you are talking to issues of young people.”
His third love, international relations, was one that many councillors would attest to as he often drew murmurs from the chambers with his elaborate speeches, peppered with quotes from former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, punting communism.
“Even during my time in local government, I have been very hands-on with international issues. I believe the metro and South Africa are not operating as an island. Global participation impacts on the development of our country.”
Wayile hopes to continue contributing to the metro but says he would do so cautiously, if and when asked.
With his family still in the Bay, Wayile will commute between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. “We still need to have serious discussions with my family. We need to sit down and reflect and weigh up our options regarding where we are going to live.”