Cape Town city manager has come a long way since his days as petrol attendant.

Cape Town city manager has come a long way since his days as petrol attendant.

- Mbandazayo has taken over from predecessor Achmat Ebrahim

- He will be the city manager for a five-year term

- He is stepping in during one of the most difficult times in the City's post-democratic history

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Our Cape Town city manager, Lungelo Mbandazayo, comes from humble beginnings and is proud of his roots. He never expected to reach his current heights.

He said, "I am very humbled. Looking at where I come from, I never, when I grew up, anticipated that I would be here. That I would be the steward of the most prized asset in Africa."

Mbandazayo grew up in Kei Cuttings with his parents who were school teachers, and six siblings.

He walked vast distances to school and exploring the Kei valleys - sometimes wearing only a long shirt.

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Mbandazayo knows about growing up poor. His children laugh at him when he tells them of his childhood and how he didn't have a bed while living with his parents. Only after going to boarding school did he sleep in a bed for the first time.

According to Mbandazayo he also received his first pair of shoes when he went to boarding school in Butterworth.

His education at the Blytheswood Institution was paid for with money that had been raised by the Church of Scotland and the Mfengu chiefs.

It was at this school that Mbandazayo initially got interested in social justice and politics.

He and his friends would discuss what was happening around them with the apartheid government becoming ever more fierce.

During his time at the Blytheswood institution Mbandazayo saw how pupils were taken in by the police, even those without political connections or associations. The students' "names were taken" by the police to scare them into submission.

But this just made the students even more frustrated and determined to change the country. Mbandazayo said, "You start to feel: there is something wrong with the system.".

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Mahlubi Mbandazayo, Lungelo's late brother, was a PAC official and he influenced our city manager's political views.

With his political interests awakened but without money to study after school, Lungelo Mbandazayo had to find a job. His very first job was as a petrol attendant.

Knowing that he needed to better himself, he resigned later and started as a labourer for a large company.

His plan was to work himself into an office job so that he could earn enough to further his education.

He became the clerk of a man with less schooling than him - the man had Grade 7 - and worked hard to master his job. His hard work paid of and he was given a bursary to study medical technology.

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Unfortunately, on his way to his transport for his journey, the company informed him that the class was full and he could no longer go. Later he discovered that his political standing was the real reason he lost his place.

Mbandazayo was crushed, and he went home to his father for comfort and advice. "You know, he just laughed at me, literally laughed, and I was angry with him," said Mbandazayo. "I couldn't understand. Why would he be so cruel?"

His father said "that sometimes a divine message is communicated "through evil" and in this case, the message was: perhaps Lungelo was not destined to be a medical technologist,".

Mbandazayo says his father was trying to teach him to not look on the negative side. "That's what he was trying to tell me. Look on the positive side."

Not long after this he was made site manager for the very same company and then he started saving up and put himself through university.

He was inspired by retired advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza and Themba Sangoni to study law.

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He had been accepted at the University of Fort Hare and had very complicated travel plans to avoid the border posts of the homelands in the area and had to get permission from the government to go and study.

Mbandazayo graduated with a B Proc and completed an LLB at the university in Pietermaritzburg. In East London he completed his articles and finally became an attorney.

At a meeting in Roodepoort, he helped found the Pan African Students Organisation.

In his capacity as an attorney, he provided legal services to PAC activists applying for amnesty at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and helped commissioners understand the motivations of members as they hoped for amnesty.

But now in his job as city manager, politics are no longer the important matter. He feels his job is to make sure the City is functioning and happy.

People have faith in Mbandazayo.

He has already put forth a plan with timelines and the Auditor General's office has given its blessings for his plan.

"For me, I don't want delays with service delivery," says Mbandazayo. He said about the protests in the City: "I understand it, if I put myself in their shoes. They are living in those environments, that is difficult."

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But he doesn't accept that damage to property has a place in rectifying protesters' problems. He feels that the situation isn't ideal with the corruption allegations and the mayor, but the municipality's work is not being affected by it.

Mbandazayo is determined to "restore Cape Town's lost ground and credibility". He will be thinking of his father's advice from years ago: "I always remember my father's words. Whilst it is not good what happened, it is a wake-up call for us."

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