The city’s future ‘beautiful’

2014-10-06 00:00

DURBAN mayor James Nxumalo raked and cleaned the lawns of plush Westville homes as a gardener for five years to pay for his education.

It was not by choice.

He said growing up in a home with 15 siblings was not easy for his parents, Pauline and Elphas, who were workers on a farm in New Hanover, 35 km outside

Pietermaritzburg.

The mayor of Durban was one of two siblings who were fortunate enough to get an education.

He said: “It was only at the age of 14 that I was exposed to the harsh realities of apartheid.

“I noticed that something was not right. Black people were treated differently from white people.”

This sparked his interest in politics and at the age of 18 he became active in student politics.

Nxumalo said to pay for his school education he went door to door asking Westville residents if he could clean their gardens.

He said: “I worked as a garden boy for five years to earn money to support myself and my family.”

He admits that he was a late bloomer.

“I only had my first girlfriend at the age of 20,” Nxumalo said shyly.

He landed his first job packing chicken at Rainbow Chicken in Cato Ridge but he and 200 employees lost their jobs for organising a strike for better wages.

During this time, his life was in danger so the ANC deployed him to Pietermaritzburg where he met and worked with Harry Gwala.

In 1995, he moved back to Ntshanga where he began his career in local government.

And while his political career was flourishing, his love life also took a turn for the better.

In 2000, Nxumalo met his wife, Busi.

The couple married in 2006 and have six children together.

Nxumalo said: “I am a strict father because I came from a strict home, my father used to sjambok us.” His smile fades. “But I am still very friendly with my children, we joke around and dance together.”

Between 2007 and 2013 Nxumalo and his family lived in Pinetown but moved back to Ntshanga.

“In the suburbs you don’t really know your neighbours, there is no sense of community,” said Nxumalo.

The mayor’s day begins at 5 am.

He is at work by 8 am attending back-to-back meetings and then the day often ends with a cocktail or gala dinner function.

“Sometimes a week will go by without me seeing my family because I wake up early in the morning and come back late at night. This job is exhausting,” he said.

Nxumalo leads a healthy lifestyle. He has taken up cycling and is encouraging his colleagues to join him. “I will be cycling the Amashova next week,” said Nxumalo.

• amanda.khoza@witness.co.za

Born: February 12, 1965 in New Hanover, outside Pietermaritzburg.

Wife: Busi Nxumalo.

Children: Six.

Primary education: Ingqaza Lower Primary School, Bhekamatshe Community Primary School, Imbaliyezwe Lower Primary School, Fredville Higher Primary School and Siphesihle High School.

Tertiary education: Varsity College, Diploma in Project Management. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Public Administration and Management certificate.

Political career: He joined the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the 1980s. In 1990, he went on to join the ANC Youth League, the ANC and the South African Communist Party. Between 1996 and 2000 he served as a councillor and executive council member of the then Outer West Local Council.

In 2005, he was elected to be Speaker of the council.

In 2011, he was appointed the Mayor of eThekwini Municipality.

Three top Durban projects: eThekwini Integrated, Rapid Public Transport Network (IRPTN) and the N3 Corridor and the Cornubia Integrated Human Settlement Project.

The future of Durban is: “Beautiful. We just need to clear the slums because that is the biggest headache, if we can clear the slums, Durban will be a happier place,” said Nxumalo.

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