Friday, March 17, 2017

Nkosazana Dlamini Zooms Home
March 17, 2017
Tichaona Zindoga Political Editor

DR Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the first woman African Union Commission chairperson, this week made a triumphant return to her native South Africa after handing over the reins to Chad’s Faki Mohammat.

Having already made a name for herself as the chief of the African Union’s administrative body – making her arguably the most powerful woman on the continent – it appears written in the stars that bigger things await her at home.

She could as well become the next president of the ruling ANC party and the Republic.

The powerful wings of the revolutionary party, the ANC Women’s and Youth Leagues, have nominated her to be the leader of the party ahead of an elective conference due in December.

She is the only one to have received this endorsement and it puts her in a powerful position ahead of other prospective candidates, the most notable of whom is Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa.

(There are other names, including women that have been touted including Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete.)

Dlamini-Zuma also reportedly enjoys the support of President Jacob Zuma, her ex-husband.


There was a rousing, rallying reception of her at OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday as she called her time in Ethiopia where she spent the last four years.

Her decision not to seek re-election has been interpreted as an intention to run for the highest office in South Africa.

She has not been public with those sentiments, though.

The nomination by the two wings is telling and significant with ANCYL leader Collen Maine telling her that they had “big plans” for her and that she would “not be loitering around” after Addis Ababa.

Dlamini-Zuma may take her AU momentum into the succession race.

Accepting the warm, politically charged reception she got she said: “I was sent by the ANC government and the continental leadership. The four years have been a very interesting experience for me.

“I have learnt a lot and I will share it with you when I visit you, in your various provinces. For now I just want to thank you for the support, from government, the ANC and the nation.”

That makes the following months something to watch out for, especially when formal declarations are made.

Many see the race to succeed President Zuma as pitting Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa, a tough-talking, wealthy businessman enjoys the support of Cosatu, the labour body that has put him as their preferred candidate when President Zuma steps down.

The magnate is also seen enjoying the support of business and tipped to perform better for an increasingly weakening South African economy.

Yet the grassroots of the women and youth leagues may prove pivotal.

Not least, Ramaphosa may find himself fighting ghosts of Marikana, where poor miners were killed at mines in which he has interests.

Giant killer

It will be recalled that when Dlamini- Zuma took over the reins at the AU Commission she did it in the most contested fashion, seeing off a stiff challenge from Jean Ping, a seasoned statesman who enjoyed the support mainly of Francophonie and West Africa in general.

It was a bruising, polarising battle.

It was a historic giant-killing, anti-status quo win, eventually.

Her job, at the Commission, included chairing all meetings and deliberations of the Commission, undertaking measures aimed at promoting and popularising the objectives of the AU; enhancing the performance of the Commission and promoting cooperation with other organisations for the furtherance of the objectives of the union as well as acting as a depository for instruments of ratification, accession or adherence of all international agreements concluded under the auspices of the AU.

The chairperson also communicates information in this respect to member states and consults and coordinates with governments and other institutions of member states and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) on the activities of the union.

According to information available on the Commission, as AU’s administrative arm it acts independently of states and requires the incumbent to manage the organisation and guide its work to ensure that programmes are realised.

And she did not fare too badly so much so that her departure appeared to throw the organisation into disarray after failing to find a suitable replacement for her on time, mid-year in 2016.

It was only in January this year that a replacement was found, unconvincingly.

If Dlamini-Zuma had sought re-election she could as well have wrapped that one up.

Her successes at the continental body are seen in the Agenda 2063 policy, her emphasis on women empowerment and calls for industrialisation.

According to Carries du Plessis, Dlamini-Zuma’s three main successes were:

Agenda 2063

1. At the African Union’s 50th anniversary in 2013, Dlamini-Zuma spearheaded the launch of Agenda 2063 – a long-term vision of where Africa wants to be in another 50 years. While the success would depend on the implementation by member states, she did manage to get political buy-in for the plan and popularised it.

2. She managed to crack the glass ceiling in Africa as the first woman to lead the continental organisation. Many have argued that the continent isn’t ready for a woman in that position, but two women (out of five candidates) are running for AU Commission chairperson this year, and at least one is a very strong favourite to follow in Dlamini-Zuma’s steps. She made women’s rights the theme of two consecutive AU summits and the continental body started a major campaign to end child marriage which, together with similar campaigns by other organisations, seems to be bearing some fruit.

3. Her tenure at AU helped turn the attention of South Africans to continental issues after former president Thabo Mbeki’s African Renaissance had come to an end. At home Dlamini-Zuma was invited to a number of talks during which she spoke on African issues and preached free movement and tolerance from South Africans towards our neighbours. A lot of this is related to her campaign for the presidency, but at least it made South Africans look beyond the borders again.

With such flying marks during her tour of duty, Dlamini-Zuma could well zoom her attention on South Africa.

Just like at the African Union Commission where she went against the status quo, history and a male dominance, she will seek to become the first female leader of the ANC in 104 years.

But we have no guarantees that it will be so neat and tidy.

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