Durban – With the sudden change of premier, from Senzo Mchunu to Willies Mchunu, in KwaZulu-Natal on Monday, one wonders: Who is Willies Mchunu and what is his political track record?
Prior to succeeding Senzo Mchunu as premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Willies Mchunu was a Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for the Department of Transport, Community Safety, and Liaison in KwaZulu-Natal.
Willies Mchunu was a former chairperson of the South African Communist Party in KwaZulu-Natal and is currently a member of the Central Committee of the SACP.
Mchunu’s record in political office is marred by controversy in a few notable instances.
In 2009 controversy hit Mchunu’s career when violence struck at Abahlali baseMjondolo at Kennedy Road informal settlement.
Abahlali base Mjondolo and many civil society organizations blame Mchunu for condoning the attacks by an armed group affiliated with the ANC.
Mchunu’s response to the attacks was also criticised by Bishop Rubin Phillip and Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. To add fuel to the fire, Mchunu refused to call for an independent investigation into the attacks even though Amnesty International sent a letter of concern to Mchunu, which was met with no response from his office.
On 18 July 2011, the case against twelve members of Abahlali baseMjondolo was thrown out of court, with the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa issuing a statement saying that the “charges were based on evidence which now appears almost certainly to have been manufactured” and that the magistrate had described the witnesses as “belligerent”, “unreliable”, and “dishonest”.
Two other notable cases of controversy involving Mchunu were cases of deaths during a Traffic Department fitness test in 2012, followed by the Fields Hill crash in 2013.
In 2012, six applicants for positions as traffic officers died during a fitness test and another committed suicide following the test which resulted in calls for Mchunu’s resignation. These calls were never addressed or acceded to.
In 2013, 24 people were killed in Fields Hill near Pinetown. Although there were widespread calls by the community to have trucks banned on this dangerous route due to the high volume of accidents which occur here, these calls seemed to be completely ignored by Mchunu.