Life, love and politics: At home with Thembeka Mchunu

2015-08-07 10:01
Thembeka Mchunu (Amanda Khoza, News24)

Thembeka Mchunu (Amanda Khoza, News24)

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Durban – Life is a balancing act for KwaZulu-Natal’s First Lady Thembeka Mchunu.

She runs a tight ship juggling her role as wife to Premier Senzo Mchunu as well as motherhood. She is also the uThungulu District mayor.

When News24 arrived for an exclusive interview at her Parkside state house in Pietermaritzburg, Mchunu's warm infectious smile was the first welcome. Yet, she was soon serious about what her life was about.

“I have to carry myself, I have to carry him, I have to carry the family and the whole nation on my shoulders,” Mchunu says, who generally shies away from the media spotlight. She was dressed in a stylish figure-hugging grey and yellow dress.


Mchunu was born on January 31, 1968 in Ixopo, Carisbrooke.

When her mother, Thenjiwe and father, Joshua, divorced when she was 5, she and her brother Thabo Mofokeng moved to live with their paternal grandmother.

Her brother is the former eThekwini Municipality spokesperson.

She attended Carisbrooke Primary School in Ixopo and later Laduma High School in Pietermaritzburg.

“I remember playing big sister to Thabo and was protective of him, because it was just the two of us. I think my grandparents made me who I am today. My grandmother loved people, she took care of everyone and put others first.”

In Grade 8 Mchunu moved to Pietermaritzburg to live with her mother, who was a teacher.

“My mother was very strict but we developed a strong bond.”


This was the same year Mchunu heard about the African National Congress (ANC) and became aware of what was happening in the country.

“Our Grade 8 teacher used to teach us freedom songs and tell us about what happened on June 16 and the Soweto uprising,” she said.

“I met Senzo when I was 16. He was that guy who liked to speak about politics and recommended books for me to read. He liked politics from a very young age.

“Our relationship developed from friendship into a romantic one. What I liked about him was the respect he had for me… he was a very responsible guy.”

After matriculating from St Augustine’s in 1985, Mchunu attended the Umbumbulu College of Education to study teaching.

“I had dreams of becoming a social worker, a lawyer or a librarian. Teaching was not on the cards,” she said laughing.

She could not complete her studies at the college, because her family struggled financially, but she later received a bursary.


Thembeka and Senzo married in July 1990.

“We dated for about five years before we got married. We had a child, but he passed away. We have four children together.”

After all of these years, Mchunu says she still falls in love with her husband every day.

“I love that he is unique. He is himself all the time. What you see is what you get. He is responsible and a loving father. He is very strict and he loves his children and the kids are one thing he cannot compromise on.”

She said she was also a strict parent, but along with her husband, they balanced each other out.

“After everything we have been through, prayer keeps us going. I pray a lot.”

Being a gogo

The Mchunus have two boys and two girls.

“My eldest daughter Zinhle has just become a sister-nurse. Mathuthu is a graduate and looking for a job now. Jama is in Grade 12 and Phakade is doing Grade 7,” said Mchunu, adding she was now a grandmother and enjoying being a "gogo".

She said the premier would do anything for his children.

“I try to balance time for them, my work as a mayor, my work in the ANC and my husband. It’s a juggling act,” said Mchunu.

Read also: Women must exert their authority, says Thembeka Mchunu

Read more on:    senzo mchunu  |  pietermaritzburg  |  politics  |  local government

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