/ 13 September 2022

Back to the future as Dlamini-Zuma squares up to challenge Ramaphosa for the ANC presidency

Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson Of The African Union
Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is now a minister in the presidency responsible for youth, women and people with disabilities. (Photo by Luiz Rampelotto/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)


The news that the cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has decided to put her hand up and say “pick me” to the ANC’s branches isn’t really a surprise.

There’s not exactly a glut of talent available to stop Cyril Ramahosa from sleepwalking his way into the ANC presidency again in December — lots of contenders, but not a lot of talent.

Sadly, though, it’s all so 2017.

It’s a bit back to the future. One had hoped the ANC was beyond its 2017 trenches, or at least had dug some new ones, or come up with new presidential contenders, rather than recycling the old ones.

Sad, but also an indication of where the party’s at.

There’s also the reality that Dlamini-Zuma got a taste of running the country for just over two years when she became the de facto head of state through the powers given to her in terms of the Covid-19 state of national disaster.

The former African Union chairperson must have enjoyed herself during her two and a bit years of ruling by edict — she did seem pretty gleeful when she was banning cigarettes and alcohol — and appears to want some more.

From Dr No, to Number One — maybe.

Dlamini-Zuma has also been knocking on the ANC presidency door since she ran as Thabo Mbeki’s deputy when he stood — unsuccessfully — for a third term, taking on her former husband Jacob Zuma in 2007, at the ANC conference in Polokwane.

That must have caused some bad vibes at family braais — and birthday parties.


Bad vibes, but not bad enough to stop Nxamalala from endorsing Dlamini-Zuma’s bid for the party presidency in 2017.

Now, the former president wants the ANC KwaZulu-Natal leadership to back Dlamini-Zuma as party president again in December; get her name onto the ballot by the time this round of nominations by branches is over.

Nxamalala has spoken.

The comrades are to start nominating candidates for the party’s top positions in the next week, so uBaba letting them know that Dlamini-Zuma is interested in the job before they get going makes sense.

Conventional wisdom had it that Dlamini-Zuma lacked appetite for a second run at the ANC presidency — and that she wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit when she stood against Ramaphosa as party number one at its last national conference — so the comrades definitely needed a reminder that she was still in the game.

Lindiwe Siulu and Zweli Mkhize have both been trying for months — desperately — to position themselves as the contender to take on Ramaphosa.

Neither Sisulu nor Mkhize has secured the traction they tried for during the regional and provincial conferences earlier this year.

Both wanted — and needed — Zuma’s endorsement, and KwaZulu-Natal’s support, by the time the nomination process opened this week.

From the events of the weekend, it appears that neither got it.

Perhaps uBaba’s endorsement will get Dlamini-Zuma onto the ballot paper — help her square things away with the smoking and drinking comrades who haven’t forgotten what happened when Cyril gave her the keys to the shop.

Second time lucky — well second and a bit, if you count the attempt at the deputy presidency.

Perhaps it will have the opposite effect — a kiss of death, rather than mouth-to-mouth — and Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign will sink like a lead balloon, dead in the water before it even starts.