Women must exert their authority, says Thembeka Mchunu

2015-08-07 08:22
Thembeka Mchunu. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

Thembeka Mchunu. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

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Durban – KwaZulu-Natal First Lady and uThungulu district mayor Thembeka Mchunu says working in a male dominated sphere has taught her how to exert her authority.

In an exclusive interview with News24 at the Parkside state home in Pietermaritzburg that she shares with her husband, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu, she also opened up about the controversial death of her deputy mayor, Thulani Mashaba, who was killed in a car accident in Ballito last month.

Mchunu’s career in local government spans 20 years. When she was elected as uThungulu’s district mayor, she said she was honoured, but also anxious.

"I was the first female mayor in the district in 2000. I remember once [that] the municipal manager at the time used to utter statements that he [couldn't] be led by a woman.

"They used to do nasty things to intimidate me. I remember once I was supposed to sit on a desk at work and fortunately I did not. That desk was dismantled so that it [would] fall on top of me.

"Men will undermine you, but you have to exert your authority," said Mchunu.

Mchunu said what set her apart was her understanding of local government and legislation.

"That’s why I have not faulted. I think it is also making sure that you deliver services to your community."

Biggest challenge

uThungulu district covers areas from Gingindlovu, Umfolozi River and Nkandla. The district's six municipalities are Umhlathuze, Ntambanana, uMlalazi, Mthonjaneni, Nkandla and Mfolozi.

Mchunu said she and her team have done a lot to transform the small towns in the district.

"Look at Melmoth, today there are shopping malls and upcoming developments like a new hospital and a police station. My vision is to see development in the entire district, even the rural towns. People shouldn’t have to travel long distances from one town to the next for services."

She said the biggest challenge facing the district was water.

"There are a lot of rural municipalities and we need to supply water to them … I am proud that there are houses today in rural areas with their own taps and water connections."

In 2014, the IFP in KZN called for Mchunu to be removed as the district mayor so that she could fulfil her duties as the first lady.

"The first lady issue is an honorary thing. There is no budget for it and I never signed a contract with the provincial government.

"The ANC also knew that I was a mayor before my husband became the premier. I am a leader in my own right.

"If they say that I need to be recalled because I am failing at my job, then that’s fine, but I am dedicated and I love my job. I have been in local government for 20 years now. I really understand what local government is all about and what it is we must do in serving people."

Mashaba's death

Last Thursday, the premier, in his capacity as the chairperson of the provincial ANC, broke his silence on allegations that he was behind Mashaba’s death.

Mashaba was the chairperson of the Musa Dladla region. "It’s painful to sit there among comrades and some of the fingers are pointing at you as the cause of an incident," said Mchunu. It has also been reported that Mashaba and Mchunu’s wife did not get along, which was why she was allegedly sidelined at his funeral.

The first lady admitted that she and Mashaba had a tumultuous relationship.

"He was my deputy and our relationship was not a relationship that one would aspire to have. When we worked, we worked and that’s where it ended. We were not friends."

She said she was disturbed by the reports following Mashaba’s death.

"It was disturbing, but my husband and I had to be mature and keep quiet about it and wait for things to unfold before jumping to conclusions," she said.

- Read also: Life, love and politics: At home with Thembeka Mchunu

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

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