Buffalo City municipal manager Andile Fani has many disguises. Hanging in his office are at least three: orange and blue overalls, and a traffic cop’s uniform.
It’s not a game. Fani goes undercover regularly to check that the city’s workers are doing their jobs.
He’s only been in the post for three months, so when he dons uniforms and pretends to be a security guard or a street sweeper, few workers recognise him.
During his investigations, “detective” Fani has discovered cases of laziness and blatant corruption.
Among other things, he has found municipal employees who spend their work hours in shops, or clock in for night shift and leave five minutes later.
He has also realised that some workers stay at home and get someone else to punch their card.
Fani only punches out of his imaginary time clock after midnight.
He is in bed by 1.30am and wakes up about four hours later to prepare for the day’s meetings.
Buffalo City’s tough new municipal manager is inspired by his grandfather’s wisdom.
During his days as a barefoot and impoverished farm child in Fort Beaufort, Eastern Cape, his elderly grandfather taught him that corruption and stealing were mortal sins.
“Among other things, my grandfather always said that a person should be satisfied with what they have and not envy what others have,” he says.
Today the fight against corruption, theft and laziness is a priority for him, hence the undercover work.
He particularly dislikes dirty streets. An important aim, according to Fani, is to get the city neat and tidy, and to keep it that way.
His enthusiasm and pride in his work has inspired others. Many municipal meetings now start at 7am.
“If you want to make a difference, you have to be committed,” he says.
At an early age he made the decision not to go down the same path as his family, who are all “very poor, uneducated gardeners and kitchen workers”.
While at school, he spent his nights next to a dim candle.
Among his subjects at tertiary level were labour law and public administration.
Now he has big plans for East London.
“This city has a lot of potential. We want to attract investors on a large scale.
“ This city must become the city everyone wants to invest in.
“For example, the car manufacturer DaimlerChrysler has indicated that they’re staying here,” he says.
“My aim is to make this city more prosperous and bring it back to its glory days.
We can only achieve this through hard work and dedication.”