Deputy Mayor Fawzia Peer

Deputy mayor Fawzia Peer, fast gaining a reputation as the peerless poster girl of the eThekwini Municipality, gave us a glimpse of another side to her persona this week.

Behind her mask of foundation cream and glossy mascara was the uncharacteristic face of a somewhat impatient, abrasive and arrogant civic leader more reminiscent of councillors at city hall in the bad old days.

How else is one to interpret the dismissive tone she adopted in her heated exchange with a Reservoir Hills ratepayer, Ron Naidoo, who dared to question her and her council about service delivery and the refuse littering her street.

Fortunately for Naidoo - and thousands of ratepayers out there - the call was recorded.

When I first heard the 14-minute voice recording on my phone, I was shocked and assumed Peer had probably had a bad hair day or just did not get enough of her customary afternoon nap. She was certainly not herself.

I know the feeling from personal experience, having had to deal as an editor with many a disgruntled reader and outraged advertiser, abuse from people who took offence to something I’ve published or demanding to know why their beloved newspaper had not been delivered on time. I quickly learnt an important skill - the art of listening.

The whole Peer-Naidoo episode helped me recall an encounter I’d once had with an apartheid-era councillor regarding some problem in my neighbourhood several years ago. He slammed the phone down on me, telling me not to waste his time and suggesting I contact my Local Affairs Committee if I needed assistance.

However irritated our deputy mayor may have been with Naidoo’s complaint, I would have expected a leader of her standing to remain cool-headed and composed, give the ratepayer a patient hearing and point her in the right direction.

But Peer gave Naidoo short shrift, saying: “You all elected the DA councillor who sits at home and does bugger all, and do nothing.”

Then, when Naidoo tried to argue that the ANC councillor was none the better, Peer responded with almost breathtaking arrogance: “Doesn’t matter, I’m not bothered about him. He is not my councillor, he is not my son. You understand, I am for myself.”

I hope we’re not going back to those days when a well-known ANC politician once warned all citizens voting for opposition parties in the city they’d be last in the queue when it came to service delivery.

All public representatives should follow the example of Nelson Mandela, who, after his release from Robben Island, addressed the nation as “a humble servant of you, the people”.

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** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE