JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Apr 7 – With South African President Jacob Zuma facing growing calls to resign over a series of corruption scandals, attention is turning to one potential contender to succeed him – his former wife.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, 67, is a long-standing heavyweight in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, holding several ministerial positions since the end of white-minority rule in 1994.
Confirmation last week that Dlamini-Zuma will not run for re-election as head of the African Union (AU) Commission fuelled rumours that 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 in the international spotlight.
“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, told AFP.
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.
“It may provide a bit of comfort, because I don’t think that she would like to see the father of her children jailed,” Ndletyana said.
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.