Name: Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma
Born: 27 January 1949, Natal, South Africa
Name: Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma
Born: 27 January 1949, South Africa
Family: Ex-husband to South African President Jacob Zuma.
Positions: Chairperson of the African Union Commission, 15 October 2012 - Present
Political Affiliations: African National Congress (ANC)
Career: Anti-apartheid activist; South Africa’s Minister of Health, 1994-1999; Minister of Foreign Affairs, 17 June 1999 to 10 May 2009; Minister of Home Affairs, 10 May 2009 - 2 October 2012; Chairperson of the African Union Commission
Biography: Dlamini-Zuma became the first woman to head the African Union (or its predecessor the Organisation of African Unity) on , 15 October 2012, having beaten the incumbent Chairperson of the AU Commission, Jean Ping of Gabon, in a vote on 15 July 2012. Dlamini-Zuma won by 27 votes to 24 in the first round and 29 to 22 in the second and by sweeping a majority 33 votes to 18 in the final round.
Dlamini-Zuma first sought to become the Chairperson of the African Union Commission in January 2012, when she ran against incumbent Jean Ping. However, the election ended in a deadlock with neither able to the needed two-thirds majority. Ping’s term was extended by six months, until the July vote, which Dlamini-Zuma won decisively.
Career: Research Technician, University of Natal Durban Westville Medical School, 1971-72; Vice-President, South African Students Organisation, 1976; Chairperson, African National Congress (ANC) Youth Section, UK, 1977-78; House Officer, Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, UK, 1978-79; Vice Chairperson, ANC Regional Political Committee, UK, 1978-79; Vice-Chairperson, Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital, Berkshire, UK, 1979-80; Medical Officer, Mbabane Government Hospital, Swaziland, 1980-85; Paediatrician, Whittington Hospital, UK, 1987-89; Director, Health Refugee Trust, Health and Development Organisation, UK, 1988-90; Chairperson, ANC Regional Political Committee, UK, 1988-89; House Officer, ANC Health Department, Zambia, 1989-90; Research Scientist, Medical Research Council, Durban, 1991-94; Minister of Health, 1994-99; Deputy Chair, United Nations AIDS Board, 1995; Chancellor, ML Sultan Technikon, 1996; Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1999-2009; Minister of Home Affairs, 2009 to date.
Commentary: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the ex-wife of Jacob Zuma, is ambitious and has achieved political prominence. As Minister of Health and of Foreign Affairs she has shown herself to be hard-working, perceptive and competent. She challenged the patent rights of international pharmaceutical companies, opening the way for widespread distribution of generic anti-retrovirals. As foreign minister she skilfully defined and defended South African interests, though her strong public support for Zimbabwe’s ruling party dismayed many.
Yet she is charisma-free and was obdurate when she had clearly erred. In 1995 she refused to admit poor judgement in sanctioning the spending of 14 million rand (US$1.9 mn.) of the Health Department’s budget on a musical show intended to combat AIDS. In 1997 she championed, without subsequent public regret, an experimental anti-AIDS drug called Virodene, made of industrial solvent and with no anti-retroviral impact.
She was originally Mbeki’s first choice as his successor. Mbeki flagged her candidacy a month after he began his presidency in 1999, having appointed Jacob Zuma as his deputy. Until 14 June 2005 - when he fired Zuma, Mbeki still believed he could lift Dlamini-Zuma into the presidency. However, ANC supporters and leaders found the stern often abrasive medical doctor unsuitable for campaigning. An implacable foe, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, threatened to run a grassroots movement against her, using as a base the ANC Women’s League until, at the 1997 ANC national conference, Dlamini-Zuma helped Mbeki to break Madikizela-Mandela’s grip on the Women’s League. Grassroots resistance and her ex-husband’s problems finally prompted Dlamini-Zuma to withdraw. The relationship began to sour because Zuma felt affronted by Mbeki’s open grooming of his estranged wife for the presidency. A week before Christmas 2005, she formally told Mbeki she wasn’t interested in the top post. We hear Mbeki advised her to issue a public statement and she did so on 22 December.
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