Chris Pappas
Deaan Vivier—Rapport/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Since taking office as mayor of uMngeni, South Africa, in November 2021, Chris Pappas has managed to balance the municipality’s budget for the first time in over a decade and added 175 new homes to the electricity grid. It’s an impressive track record made possible by penny-pinching measures like a reduction in hiring.

His election itself was an unusual feat, in part because he’s a white, gay, Zulu-speaking politician, in a municipality that is three-quarters Black in a country where most people vote along racial lines. But Pappas crossed those divides to speak to people in their own language, and won votes by emphasizing small but attainable improvements to daily life and municipal services above standard political loyalty.

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“There is a need to have more administrative politicians, people who are not so focused on giving quality speeches, but are more focused on the outcomes of the policy implementation,” says Pappas.

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