The 67-year-old Dlamini-Zuma is a long-standing heavyweight in the ANC, holding several ministerial positions since the dawn of democracy in 1994. Confirmation last week that Dlamini-Zuma will not run for re-election as head of the African Union (AU) Commission fuelled rumours she may position herself for a shot at the top job back home.
Her high-profile term running the executive branch of the AU, which is headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, comes to an end in July after four years. “There is no doubt that some behind-doors lobbying on her behalf is already underway,” Mcebisi Ndletyana, associate professor of political science at the University of Johannesburg, said.
After failing in their bid to impeach him this week, Zuma’s opponents now hope to prosecute him on graft charges after he leaves office and the advantages of having his ex-wife – with whom he remains on good terms – succeeding him are clear.
But Dlamini-Zuma’s name recognition also presents a dilemma to the ANC, where some factions want a clean break from her ex-husband’s tarnished reign. “Although she is an accomplished politician, those who are opposed to Zuma may not be too happy with another Zuma taking over,” Ndletyana said.
The ANC normally puts forward its party leader as the presidential candidate, so Dlamini-Zuma would first have to climb her way to the summit of the party in order to succeed. If she does make a bid for power, her big moment would be the ANC’s elective conference next year, where the new party president will be chosen and lobbying for positions is likely to be a bruising exercise.
Zuma’s term as ANC leader is set to end in 2017. Under the constitution, he must stand down as state president after serving a maximum two terms that end in 2019. Mavuso Msimang, a former senior official under Dlamini-Zuma when she was minister for home affairs, described her as “an extremely intelligent person”. “It’s a real possibility that she would become president,” Msimang said. – AFP