12 Things You Didn’t Know About Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

12 Things You Didn’t Know About Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

1 of 13

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has long been in the forefront of South African politics, working in every administration since 1994 and currently serving as chairwoman of the African Union. She has been a major player on both the domestic and international stage for decades, and was integral in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. As her ex husband, President Jacob Zuma faces calls for his resignation over multiple scandals, Dlamini-Zuma’s name has come up time and again as a possible future leader.

Sources: Mail&Guardian, African Union, Times Live, CAF Online, Daily Maverick

She earned her first degree studying zoology and botany Source: Insider.SI.edu
She earned her first degree studying zoology and botany. Source: Insider.SI.edu

She originally began her studies in zoology

In 1971, Dlamini-Zuma began her studies at the University of Zululand, studying Zoology and Botany. She earned a bachelor’s degree in science in 1971, then went on to the University of Natal for medical studies.

A SASO memorial remembering Steve Biko Source: Sites.Google.com
A SASO memorial remembering Steve Biko. Source: Sites.Google.com

She moved to the U.K. after being exiled from South Africa

Dlamini-Zuma became the deputy president of the South African Students Organization, an underground group that worked as the student arm of the Black Consciousness Movement inspired by Steve Biko. She ended up completing her medical degree at the University of Bristol in the U.K. in 1978 after fleeing South Africa.

Dlamini Zuma with her ex-husband, current President Jacob Zuma Source: EWN.co.za
Dlamini Zuma with her ex-husband, President Jacob Zuma. Source: EWN.co.za

She met Jacob Zuma while in exile in Swaziland

Dlamini-Zuma met Jacob Zuma in Swaziland in the 1970s while both were living there in exile. She became his second wife when they married in 1972, and went on to have four children. They divorced in 1998, but remained on good terms, and continued to work together through several administrations.

The CODESA negotiations in South Africa in 1994 USIP.org
The CODESA negotiations in South Africa in 1994. USIP.org

Dlamini-Zuma participated in the CODESA negotiations

During the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) negotiations in 1992, Dlamini-Zuma served an important role as a part of the Gender Advisory Committee. After Nelson Mandela was elected president in the country’s first democratic election in 1994, he appointed her Minister of Health in his cabinet.

Dlamini Zuma targeted tobacco use and AIDS during her time as South Africa's Minister of Health TimesLive.co.za
Dlamini Zuma targeted tobacco use and AIDS as Minister of Health. TimesLive.co.za

She used her job to target AIDS and tobacco in South Africa

Dlamini-Zuma was extremely focused on advancing AIDS education and access to treatment in South Africa. She was criticized for some of her decisions regarding the AIDS crisis in South Africa – namely supporting the anti-AIDS drug, Virodene, which was cheaper than other options but deemed ineffective by many in the scientific community. She made it illegal for anyone to smoke in public places with the Tobacco Products Control Bill in 1999.

She worked to desegregate the country's health care - a system that, while still plagued by issues, is far more effective for many than it was previously Meditech.co.za
She helped desegregated the country’s health care system. Meditech.co.za

Dlamini-Zuma is credited with desegregating the health system

During her tenure as Minister of Health, Dlamini-Zuma focused on desegregating the system and introducing access to free basic healthcare for all South Africans.

Former President Thabo Mbeki offered Dlamini Zuma the Deputy Presidency, a position she declined Britannica.com
She turned down the deputy presidency whenThabo Mbeki offered it to her. Britannica.com


Dlamini-Zuma declined the position of Deputy President to Thabo Mbeki

While serving as the minister of foreign affairs in former President Mbeki’s cabinet, she was offered the position of deputy president after Jacob Zuma was fired. After speaking with her children, however, Dlamini-Zuma declined the offer, and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka became deputy president instead.

She achieved the first clean audit for the Ministry of Home Affairs in many, many years MG.co.za
She achieved the first clean audit for the Ministry of Home Affairs in years. MG.co.za

She got the first clean audit in years in Home Affairs

After being appointed minister of home affairs by President Zuma in 2009, Dlamini-Zuma sought radical change in the department. She earned a clean audit in 2011 – the first in many years. She is credited with reforming a department previously mired in bureaucracy and corruption for over a decade.

Dlamini Zuma became the first woman to chair the African Union in VOANews.com
Dlamini Zuma became the first chairwoman of the African Union in 2012. VOANews.com

She became the first woman to be voted Chairperson of the African Union

In 2012, Dlamini-Zuma ran against the incumbent Jean Ping to become the first chairwoman of the African Union. She received 60 percent of the vote after a drawn-out election, and promised to try to unify a continent that voted largely along francophone vs. anglophone lines.

It is unclear who will take over as Chairperson of the African Union after Dlamini Zuma's term ends Wikipedia.org
There is no replacement yet for A.U. chairperson. Wikipedia.org

Dlamini-Zuma won’t run for re-election as AU head

Dlamini-Zuma has announced that she will not seek re-election. This decision has fueled rumors that she is seeking a different position – that of  South African president. Nominations for an A.U. replacement have opened again after countries failed to elect a replacement for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at July’s summit in Kigali, Rwanda. Countries have until the end of September to formally nominate candidates for the position of A.U. chairperson and deputy.

Source: Daily Maverick

Dlamini Zuma faces obstacles to becoming the new leader of the ANC, but has already been endorsed by many, including the KZN ANC (KwaZulu-Natal) Enca.com
Dlamini Zuma has been endorsed by KwaZulu-Natal ANC as new leader of the ANC. Enca.com

Dlamini-Zuma faces obstacles seeking ANC leadership

If Dlamini-Zuma does make a bid for party leadership of the ANC, there are several issues she’ll face. The ANC has not had a female leader in its 104 years of existence, and gender prejudice still exists. Many party big shots want a clean break with Zuma’s scandal-filled administration, and a former cabinet member and ex-wife may give many voters pause.

Current Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will pose the biggest obstacle to taking over the ANC leadership RichestCelebrities.org
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa may be her biggest obstacle. RichestCelebrities.org

Cyril Ramaphosa may be her biggest challenge to ANC leadership

South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will be Dlamini-Zuma’s main rival in a bid for leadership of the ANC. Ramaphosa is a business tycoon and former trade unionist, and has already been second-in-command of the ANC. However he too will be seen as a candidate who is extremely close to Zuma.