Senzo Mchunu, the ANC’s new head of organising, is “looking forward” to his move to the party’s Luthuli House headquarters and working with party secretary general Ace Magashule, who narrowly beat him in the election for the post in December under controversial circumstances.
The 59-year-old, appointed as chairperson of the ANC national executive committee’s (NEC’s) organising and campaigns subcommittee, will have his first sit-down meeting with his former rival next week in Johannesburg.
Magashule beat Mchunu with 2 360 votes to 2 336 after a recount and a lengthy standoff between the camps supporting presidential contenders Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
The votes of 63 branches supporting Ramaphosa were excluded. Mchunu’s supporters cried foul and served the ANC with a notice of their intention to challenge Magashule’s election in the high court, but the action appears to have quietly disappeared.
As head of organising, Mchunu, the former KwaZulu-Natal premier and ANC chairperson, will have the overall responsibility of rebuilding and supporting party structures around the country and implementing its election strategy for next year’s national and provincial elections.
Mchunu’s job will require almost daily interaction with Magashule, the outgoing Free State chairperson and premier, and a key ally of former president Jacob Zuma.
Mchunu will be supported by a full-time deputy, North West ANC secretary Dakota Legoete, who will also be based at Luthuli House. The subcommittee will also work with the NEC’s elections subcommittee on devising, co-ordinating and implementing the ANC election campaign around the country.
Asked how he will handle his interactions with Magashule, Mchunu laughed. “We have not met as yet. We will meet next week. We are not going to handle anything in relation to that. December has come and gone a long time ago. What we have to handle is the actual task that is before us,” he said.
Mchunu, who also serves on the ANC’s national working committee, and his team will not only have to get the ANC’s structures on an election footing in a matter of months, but will also have to deal with the mess created at branch level by the gatekeeping and manipulation that marked the run-up to the December conference.
After the initial meeting with Magashule, the team will then draw up a national organising strategy, which will also focus on problem areas such as KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State, where the party’s provincial executive committees were declared unlawful by the courts.
“The main thing that is confronting us is the election campaign,” Mchunu said.
“This entails ensuring that our strategy for elections in relation to mobilisation of our structures is implemented and creating an environment where our membership is ready, physically and spiritually, to be part of the ANC machinery in winning the election in 2019,” he said.
“It’s not just a question of systems, but the health of the structures. You can’t organise properly where there are divisions.”
Mchunu served as provincial secretary when the party first took control of KwaZulu-Natal in 2004. He said that “make-or-break” campaign taught him several lessons.
“The first is that you need to work hard. Lesson two is that you will never win when you are not united. Even if you are not united, you have to [be] united around the campaign.
“Third is that you will never win if you don’t have enough resources. You need a combination of people and a modernised and skilled campaign to allow you to gain the imagination of the population,” he said.