Zuma’s ex-wife gets boost in South Africa leadership race

The chances of South African President Jacob Zuma’s ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, becoming the next leader of the African National Congress were given a boost with the endorsement of the ruling party’s women’s division.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA (REUTERS) – The women’s division of the African National Congress (ANC) endorsed the candidacy of South African President Jacob Zuma’s ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to become the next leader of the ruling party.

Bathabile Dlamini, the president of ANC women’s league, said Dlamini-Zuma was the best candidate.

“We’ve been saying we want a woman president, we want a woman president and therefore yesterday we had to define what we want and the most suitable candidate and face of our campaign was comrade Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma,” Dlamini said.

The ANC will pick a new leader at a conference in December and, given its national dominance since coming to power at the end of apartheid in 1994, the winner is likely to go on to be South Africa’s next president when elections are held in 2019.

Dlamini-Zuma, the chairwoman of the African Union, is viewed as a frontrunner. She is a Zulu, the largest tribe in South Africa, and is expected to have the backing of her former husband, who will have a major say in who succeeds him.

The Women’s League’s endorsement is the first for a specific candidate by a national section of the ANC and will intensify the debate over who will take the party forward after it suffered its worst local election results last year.

A medical doctor by profession, Dlamini-Zuma was health minister before becoming foreign affairs minister in 1999. She was regarded as a capable technocrat during her time as minister of home affairs between 2009 and 2012 and has since gained international exposure during her time as the first female head of the AU.

However, critics of Dlamini-Zuma, say she should have done more to intervene when former president Thabo Mbeki denied that HIV causes AIDs and imposed anti-scientific policies.

Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa, a unionist-turned-business tycoon, is viewed as her most likely rival after powerful trade unions endorsed him last year.

Neither Dlamini-Zuma, 67, or Ramaphosa, 64, have declared their intention to run.