When he is not attending to official obligations, one may find the Councillor dealing with the concerns of residents from his Ward and beyond.
In spite of the fact that the Local Authority has allocated this grassroots leader an office in the Central Business District, (CBD) which makes up his Ward, residents seeking assistance prefer to visit him at his apartment in the City Centre. Referring to this phenomenon, Cllr. Manning remarked; “Usually people begin knocking on my door around 7 o’clock in the morning and in most cases I see the last person out at about 6pm. Since I have a business to run, besides taking care of Council business, it becomes necessary, under the circumstances, to get my priorities just right. This often calls for an intricate juggling exercise, so to speak. Yet it seems that I am somehow able to cope with these stressful conditions.”
The 60 year old father of three daughters has, over the years, become renowned for his tendency to fight for the cause of the oppressed and less fortunate. One only needs to take a look at the various charitable or rights organisations to which he belongs in order to notice this. These range from church groups through to human rights assemblies dealing in matters spanning across a fairly widespread vista.
An activity that consumes much of his time is the fight to provide better working conditions for vendors in the City and thereby restore their ability to conduct their trade with dignity, under circumstances that are properly regulated. The Councillor and his Community Action Team working with various Vendor Associations have lobbied the Municipality to identify and demarcate appropriate vending sites in the CBD. He is currently involved with these groups and the Local Authority in negotiations aimed at allowing for shelters to be erected at the relevant sites.
This incidentally comes at a time when people-centred, community restoration organisation ZDDT, under an agreement with the City of Bulawayo, is engaged in an initiative that will eventually see 24 vending shelters being constructed. These will eventually be handed over by the Trust to the City Council, who will in turn present them to Councillors for the use by residents in the relevant Wards. This initiative is part of The Trust’s Local Authority Capacity Building Programme which is aimed at enhancing service delivery through, among several other things, ensuring appropriate resource management and utilisation.
Cllr. Manning’s Ward will be the first to receive such a shelter, which was only recently erected at Site 6, located in the neighbourhood.
The Councillor has also participated in various other ZDDT Programmes such as training in leadership and conflict management. One initiative of note however, is the SEBENZELA / Work for … Programme,
which besides affording Councillors and C.A.T.s the relevant training, provides them with tools and materials for clean-up campaigns, while also assisting with implementing the exercises. Cllr. Manning’s Ward has been a beneficiary of the Programme. Under this initiative the Councillor has led residents in several clean-up campaigns covering his area.
Driven by his concern for the restoration of decent hygienic conditions in the City, this local leader embarked upon a campaign aimed at eliminating fouling of sanitary lanes or the use of them as illegal dumping sites. Utilising personal resources, he visited almost every business in the CBD and tried to persuade owners to gate entrances to lanes behind their premises. The campaign has achieved reasonable success, with the consequence that many lanes are now secure and therefore not conducive to anti-social and unhygienic practices.
Yet in spite of his heavy work schedule, Cllr. Manning still finds the time to attend to those who come to his door seeking recourse for their various concerns. Commenting on this he said; “These people are my constituents. I have an obligation to honour the trust they invested in me during the last Local Council elections. Failing that, there would be no reason why I should continue to call myself the Councillor for Bulawayo’s Ward One.”
Indeed, where else except from a man of the people, can such a statement come?