Halfway through his presentation of the State of the Province Address on Wednesday, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu experienced difficulties, resulting in the leader of government business, Sihle Zikalala, taking over.
The outpouring of messages, wishing Mchunu a speedy recovery, showed the impact he has had throughout his career as a trade unionist, a Struggle activist and an elected public representative.
Mchunu represents a crop of leaders who pioneered democratic governance after we attained democracy in 1994.
He has served this province with commitment and dedication, in some cases putting the interests of those who voted for the ANC above his personal interests and his health.
When he experienced difficulties, I wondered whether the young people of today appreciated the sacrifices by leaders such as him.
Mchunu was the MEC for transport, community safety and liaison when we hosted the 2010 World Cup.
A few months before the World Cup, the province hosted the national general council. It should be noted that during that year Mchunu had asked his party, the ANC, to let him step down.
The ANC leadership pleaded with him to stay and eventually turned down his request. This was because, at the time, his conflict resolution skills were needed.
The organisation had developed a programme aimed at sustaining unity and work to this end started soon after the Polokwane Conference.
Importantly, the party was preparing for the Mangaung conference, which finally elected Dr Zweli Mkhize treasurer-general.
Over that period, Mchunu was the glue that kept the province together, preaching unity within ANC structures.
He complemented the work of the KZN chairperson, Mkhize, and Zikalala, who had just been elected provincial secretary after Senzo Mchunu was redeployed as education MEC.
It was felt that all sources of conflict needed to be resolved before the Mangaung conference since divisions would result in factional bundles that would be hard to unite in a win-lose situation that can spark bitterness.
The divisions were immense, the scars deep and the leadership contest was fierce. Leaders at the top had lost the capacity to intervene and bring all sides to their senses.
The wisdom of Mchunu and the leadership collective helped unite KwaZulu-Natal before and after Mangaung. The leadership came back united and went on to ensure a resounding victory for the ANC in the 2014 general elections.
The spirit of unity propelled the leaders to work harder to demonstrate they appreciated the confidence millions had expressed in the ANC.
The State of the Province Address set out progress made since 2014.
Mchunu expressed his profound appreciation to the people of KZN for the support he had received since 1994.
Those in various ANC leadership positions are indeed privileged to belong to a great school that has produced statesmen, intellectuals, thinkers and leaders of note.
Former president Jacob Zuma witnessed the last State of the Province Address from Mchunu, a leader with whom he pioneered democratic governance in a province ravaged by political violence.
Today’s youth leaders need to do some serious reflection. The question is: what is expected of the youth of today, born and growing under a free and democratic dispensation as opposed to that of Zuma, Sbu Ndebele, Mkhize, Senzo and Willies Mchunu as well as many others thrust into the jaws of apartheid?
They fought tirelessly for the attainment of this democracy. Even after being elected to serve a democratic government, they never rested.
Instead, they doubled their efforts to ensure the democratic government would represent the aspirations of all the people of KZN.
Over the past 10 years, the ANC provincial executive committee has undertaken an assessment of the performance of those deployed to the executive and legislative arms of the State. The premier, the speaker, the MECs and various members are subject to this process.
The ANC runs an activist legislature that has strong oversight responsibility over the executive.
It has created a platform for dialogue through sectoral parliaments for the people, by hosting senior citizens, youths, the disabled, women and workers in the legislature, and encouraging open discussion with the leaders in government.
This improves communication and enables people to table matters that need attention and seek solutions in matters of service delivery.
As Mchunu pointed out in his speech, despite having had to face numerous challenges in the midst of adversity, they have been able to execute their mandate and move the province forward towards a vision of becoming “a prosperous province with a healthy, secure and skilled population living in dignity and harmony, acting as a gateway to Africa and the world”.
Sibiya is the head of content and knowledge management in KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government Communications. He writes in his personal capacity