Dlamini-Zuma for cabinet – President Zuma’s exit strategy unpacked

The next exciting chapter in South Africa’s political thriller will surely be Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle, with those who’ve shown disloyalty out, and at least one of them being replaced with his own succession-favourite, his ex-wife; Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. With portfolios like Health, Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs under her belt, plus an extended chairing of the African Union Commission (AU) (ending next week), bringing a wealth of experience and insight to the job, she’s a legitimate top contender. Except that her former husband’s motives are questionable, to say the least. He can justify bringing her into his cabinet, but when you consider how vital an exquisitely-crafted exit plan is to the rest of his born days, then you know why deputy Cyril Ramaphosa’s best efforts at pipping Dlamini-Zuma to the top post will be strenuously blocked. Just consider the architecture of her ex-husband’s leadership structure and who’s in place to repel all-comers in virtually every State or State-linked institution imaginable (including some Chapter 9 institutions but with the exception of the Constitutional and High Courts – which is where he may see his demise). They all stand to continue benefitting if the status quo is maintained – and that’s one heck of a powerful lobby at the ANC’s next elective conference – almost unbeatable some argue. Putting Nkosazana in cabinet now makes tactical sense. – Chris Bateman

by Sam Mkokeli and Amogelang Mbatha

(Bloomberg) – South African President Jacob Zuma is considering appointing his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to his cabinet when she steps down as chairwoman of the African Union Commission, easing her path to succeeding him as national leader, government officials said.

The move would bolster Dlamini-Zuma’s profile and chances of replacing Zuma as leader of the ruling African National Congress at a conference in December, according to two deputy ministers and an ANC official, who declined to be identified because they’re not authorized to comment. Zuma told state-owned Motsweding FM radio last week the ANC is ready for a female leader and the job won’t automatically go to his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, the other front-runner for the top post. Dlamini-Zuma steps down as AU chairwoman on Jan. 27.

African Union Chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma addresses Africa Editors Forum, 24 October 2016.

Dlamini-Zuma, 67, and Zuma, 74, were divorced in 1998 and have four children together. Dlamini-Zuma rallied to Zuma’s defense after some ANC leaders called for his ouster at a National Executive Committee meeting in November, following his implication in a series of scandals. Whoever wins the presidency of the ruling party would be a strong favorite to succeed Zuma as South Africa’s leader after elections in 2019, given the party has won every election since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Zuma’s spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga wasn’t immediately available to comment. Calls to Wynne Musabayana, the AU’s head of communications didn’t connect, and she didn’t immediately answer an e-mail seeking comment.

Central Role

“She has been out of the country, which means that she hasn’t played a very central role in South African politics,” Nic Borain, a political analyst who advises BNP Paribas Securities South Africa, said by phone from Cape Town on Monday. “Those running her campaign, and it’s widely speculated that Jacob Zuma is backing her, would probably try and move her into a more central role in politics before the party’s elective conference. I don’t think they would risk putting her in a controversial position in government, for obvious reasons.”

While Dlamini-Zuma hasn’t formally declared her candidacy, she has said she’s willing to serve if asked to. She appeared to be in campaign mode on Jan. 8 when she joined the ANC’s top six leaders during a walkabout at a rally commemorating the party’s 105th anniversary in Soweto, near Johannesburg.

Experienced Politician

“She’s is a very experienced South African politician,” Borain said. “She held three cabinet positions before she was the chairwoman of the AU.”

Zuma’s successor will inherit a party plagued by infighting and hemorrhaging support — it had its worst-ever electoral showing in a municipal vote in August and lost control of several key cities, including Pretoria, the capital, and the economic hub of Johannesburg. The party’s woes have been widely blamed on the president, who’s been implicated in a succession of scandals, including a finding by the nation’s top court that he broke his oath of office by refusing to repay taxpayer money spent on his private home.

Zuma has also been trying to fend off a lawsuit filed by the main opposition Democratic Alliance aimed at forcing prosecutors to reinstate 783 graft charges against him that were dropped weeks before he became president in 2009. If he is convicted, his best option for staying out of jail may be to secure a presidential pardon.

Dlamini-Zuma graduated as a doctor from the University of Bristol in 1978, and held several medical posts in the U.K. and Swaziland after going into exile during white-minority rule. When apartheid ended in 1994, Mandela appointed her as his health minister. While she was lauded for extending access to health care to the black majority, she came under fire for squandering millions of rand of state funds on an ineffectual AIDS education play.

Mugabe Support

Dlamini-Zuma was named foreign minister after former President Thabo Mbeki took office 1999, a post she held for a decade. Her tenure was marred by her support for President Robert Mugabe in neighboring Zimbabwe, who was accused by Western governments of stealing elections and violently suppressing the opposition. In 1999, Dlamini-Zuma was reassigned to the home affairs ministry and was lauded for overseeing a successful overhaul of the system of issuing identity documents, passports and birth certificates.

She was elected chairwoman of the AU Commission in July 2012, after seeing off a re-election bid by Gabon’s Jean Ping. While she declined to stand for a second term, her tenure was extended by six months last year after AU members failed to agree on a successor.

“It would be massively beneficial for her campaign to have her go back into government because she could get a position that would push her into the limelight,” Susan Booysen, politics professor at the University of Witwatersrand’s School of Governance, said by phone from Johannesburg.