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Nkosazana good for AU, good for SA

As Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma prepared to take over her responsibilities as the new and first female leader of the African Union Commission, the reaction back home was somewhat bitter-sweet. Many said the former foreign affairs minister was being sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.

They argued SA was losing one of its finest. That she was one of the few hardworking, effective ministers in our current administration. She turned the dysfunctional department of home affairs around, making it one of the best-run. Initially, when these observations were made, even during the first round of voting in January, which ended in stalemate between her and Jean Ping, I agreed with the armchair critics. But then after the dramatic sweep she made over the weekend, I started to believe perhaps it’s a temporary setback and one we will need.

In fact South Africans should rejoice we have Dlamini-Zuma there. She’ll be sharpening her leadership skills on the continental stage. I believe we are probably grooming our future president. I’ll tell you why. Sometimes for a good athlete to make a giant, gold-medal-winning leap, they first take a few steps backwards. For the past few months, maybe years, we have been watching Dlamini-Zuma as she took those steps with her eyes firmly fixed on the big one — the ANC and country presidency come 2019 (mark my words). We shouldn’t lie to ourselves and think she doesn’t have any aspirations to become the president of the country. Actually if former president Thabo Mbeki’s master-plan worked out in 2007 she would’ve been one of the heads of state who gathered there this past weekend.

When ANC lists were punted prior to Polokwane, Mbeki ensured he only had his trusted lieutenants to help him take on Jacob Zuma, Dlamini-Zuma’s ex. He wanted Dlamini-Zuma and government’s head of policy, Joel Netshitenzhe, to be his possible party deputies. Netshitenzhe declined, leaving Dlamini-Zuma as a possible Mbeki deputy in the ANC. As ANC president, Mbeki would have had the powers to appoint his own successor to run the country, allowing him to run the country via remote control from Luthuli House.

When Dlamini-Zuma was lobbied, including by the ANC Women’s League, she felt the country was indeed ready for a female president. And to make her intentions clear and ensure she silently rolls with Mbeki’s plan, she declined the ANC chairperson nomination but accepted that of deputy president. But as we know, she was one of many of the Mbeki-ites who were defeated.

Kgalema Motlanthe pipped her to become Zuma’s deputy president. But when most of Mbeki’s men and women walked away, some forming Cope, she remained to become one of the best ministers we’ve had. And she fought from within. She turned a dysfunctional department into the best-run. Dlamini-Zuma is a seasoned diplomat and tried-and-tested politician. She carried the country’s foreign policy when she ran foreign affairs for 10 years. And she did fairly well when she was the minister of health (well, hated by smokers for banning smoking in public spaces).

She served the country in various capacities with excellence and dedication. I personally don’t doubt her capabilities. Actually I’d put her in the league close to Nelson Mandela, the kind currently lacking and needed in South Africa … and indeed the continent. Just like the AU, our country is in a mess and needs a decisive leader, someone who can steer it in the right direction. Like the continent, our country needs a unifier, someone who can help nurture the building blocks of a prosperous, non-racial, non-sexist society, as envisaged by Mandela.

The less said about the current leadership, the better. They don’t inspire confidence and have so far failed dismally. Even if Zuma is toppled in Mangaung, it already looks like we’ll continue on this dark trajectory even with the new leadership. It could be Motlanthe, Tokyo Sexwale or even Cyril Ramaphosa. It doesn’t seem like this anger of the other within the ANC and the country would cease. Those who lost won’t accept.

Inequality and poverty would still remain — especially if policies meant to pull us out are blocked by the likes of Cosatu and SACP. The next leader would still have a faction that propelled him to victory looking for a payback. I really don’t see us having that in Dlamini-Zuma — not in great proportions, at least. South Africans may feel they are losing a capable leader who inherited the department we used to call “horror affairs” and turned it around. I say let her go. South Africa is not short of leaders capable of taking over where she left off, as department of international relations and co-operation spokesperson Clayson Monyela said this week. We may have lost a jewel to the AU for now but we are definitely going to win a true well-refined leader — the country’s future president when her term ends.


  • Isaac Mangena is a Chapter Nine Communicator slash activist. He has spent much of the past ten years of his life in a newsroom. He is a former TV and Newspaper journalist who focuses on African and international news. He previously worked for Media24 and Agence France-Presse. Isaac holds a BA Psychology degree from the University of the North (now Limpopo). He reads, writes and critique – a lot.


  1. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 19 July 2012

    And now we sell SA to China!

    Russia armed all the “liberation movements” and “freedom fighters” and their Cuban mercanaries. America poured Aid into Africa and funded NGOs.

    All China did was wait to bribe the winners!

  2. Tofolux Tofolux 20 July 2012

    @Isaac, why oh why do you too have to jump onto that fence? I mean wow, how could you possibly pitch this achievement in this absolutely and unbelievable weak context. Let me assist you. Yes, this wonderful achievement did not make the doomsayers happy. I remember hearing on one TV show, you knw that e show, where the ”analysts” not only displayed their ignorance but wrote off this wonderful servant of South Africa, They virtually told viewers that this Minister should not bother and board the first plane home. Now this is the nature in which we still manage to continue to have the most amazing milestones. We achieve this against a very hostile media and middle-class. But let us put this achievement in the proper context. Nkosazana achievement is NOT achieved without the support and behind the scenes workings of our President and his deputy(?) & govt. Who do you think canvasses the support noting that the candidate doesnt personally compromises herself by doing this. Also, the short timeline within which to convince those who didnt support her to now support her, how do u think this happened? But this achievement means a lot for SA. It reinforces the confidence of Africa in SA politicians. It is a milestone for women in particular especially in the face of patriarchy and matriarchy on this continent. It has broken the glass ceiling, Isaac and it reinforces that women can dream of being equal to their male counterpart. For African women especially, this is a momentous…

  3. Tofolux Tofolux 20 July 2012

    (Cont)…leap. As a woman, a youth, this achievement makes me incredibly proud. I feel so humbled and inspired and how wonderful it is to be living and experiencing all this fantastically authentic and incredible experiences. How I wish, all those who have fallen and departed, those who planted the seed for this victory, those who believed, could be here to witness this victory.

  4. MLH MLH 20 July 2012

    I’ve been pretty much thinking along the same line about our future, but I don’t agree that we have plenty of people talented enough to run national departments. Good ones seem to be pretty thin on the ground.

  5. Nzou Nzou 20 July 2012

    Nkosazana may be good for AU and might be good for SA BUT BAD FOR ZIMBABAWE BECAUSE SHE IS A SHAMELESS ZANU-PF SUPPORTER and was at the helm of shielding zanu-pf during her period in the Mbeki administration. No doubt she will now be able to play a more significant role to continue assisting the zanu-pf dictatorship from now on.

    So South Africans can look forward to not recovering the million or more jobs currently filled by exiled Zimbabweans and that South Africa will continue to be one big refugee camp

  6. Bernpm Bernpm 20 July 2012

    “de mortuis nisi bene”….on our way out we always get all the praise.

    The first African woman breaking the glass ceiling….breaking is always easier than building. Give her the benefit of the doubt. We dont know how much of her future authority the lobbying has traded in to get her the post.

    I wish her luck and hope she will learn to smile one day.

  7. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 20 July 2012

    Cosatu’s hypocricy is exposed by its total about turn on Zanu-PF/Zimbabwe from when Mbeki was president (blocking borders, turning backs ships of arms), and when Zuma and the (ex) Mrs Zuma took over (dead silence).

  8. impedimenta impedimenta 20 July 2012

    I have always admired this competent woman.

  9. yvonne yvonne 21 July 2012

    I wish her really well and congratulations, BUT I also hope and pray the CORRUPTION AND FRAUD WILL NOT RETURN TO HOME AFFAIRS! IT IS NOT completely gone yet- she was not there long enough with her BIG Broom to sweep out the rubbish. That South Africans can so undermine their own Country with fake documents to foreigners with hidden Agendas for a few hundred rands is terribly worrying and then they do it whilst we, the Taxpayers, are still paying them a very decent Salary and they are fortunate to be amongst the employed and not UNEMPLOYED. Can we not put a GREAT PERCENTAGE of the increase and Crime, especially DRUGS, HUMAN TRAFFICKING at the door of this MOST IMPORTANT DEPARTMENT? Are there NO patriotic fellow South Africans that we,as a Nation,can trust to manage departments on behalf of the Citizens of this Country without bribery/fraud/corruption/self enrichment? WE are paying them to be honest and capable? They are not doing it for FREE! Why are NONE going to jail.? She IS one of the very FEW IN Public Office WHO Got the JOB DONE IN HONESTY. WE MUST PRAY FOR THE RIGHT APPOINTMENT IN HER PLACE. A no CORRUPTION/ZERO TOLERANCE person that will not BEND to Political Pressure
    from the Fat Cats, who is not in ANYONES POCKET, does not have FAVOURS TO pay back. Zero tolerance for Eastern Bloc and other Billionaire Mafia creeping in here with false Passports and millions of dollars for bribery to save their backsides from jail in their OWN Countries. Tall order!!

  10. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 22 July 2012


    The mess in Home Affairs would never have happened in the first place if Mandela and the ANC had listened to Buthelezi when he was minister of Home Afaairs.

    Or if they had listened to De Klerk on prioritising development of the Homelands.

  11. Nzou Nzou 22 July 2012

    @yvonne .. you say “BUT I also hope and pray the CORRUPTION AND FRAUD WILL NOT RETURN TO HOME AFFAIRS! ”

    Corruption isn’t going to return as it doesn’t need to return. It’s already embedded.

    Ask any Zimbabwean and they will tell you the latest costs to get documentation.

  12. Tofolux Tofolux 23 July 2012

    @Nzou, no South African govt can protect Zanu-pf. This leads to the question, how did they protect and in which way? The problem with ex Rhodesians who ran away from their so-called homeland, which I suspect you are, is the fact that they wanted someone else ie SA govt to fight to hand back a right wing govt This reminds me of Ian Smith and his govt who expected SA to fight that war. South Africans, black in general and African in particular fought a long war to gain our freedom. SA will not support right wing ideals. As Madiba said, never, never again. So take heed.

  13. Tofolux Tofolux 23 July 2012

    @Liendie, CORRECTION. Buthelezi inherited an already corrupt department from the apartheid govt. eg That particular dept has a long history of reclassifying racial classifications for the right price. And let me add, they were very busy at the right price. But lets also be factually correct and say that there was corruption to the highest degree in the apartheid govt. Hence when ANC inherited those depts the corruption was embedded and here I also point to the fact that De Klerk negotiated that those corrupt employees do not lose their jobs. Buthelezi compounded the problem by being a non existent Minister. The dept got worse. But noting that De Klerk and Buthelezi were in cahoots, one wonders why he allowed the destruction.
    ALSO he doesnt report to Madiba, he must report to govt, in Parliament.

  14. Lennon Lennon 24 July 2012

    Ms-Dlamini-Zuma is facing tough times in this job and I hope she is able bring about actual cohesion on the continent.

    I’ll be extremely impressed if she can convince the rest of Africa to boot AFRICOM out.

  15. Gavin Foster Gavin Foster 30 July 2012


    “..we still manage to continue to have the most amazing milestones”

    I stand in awe of you absolute lack of comprehension about what is happening in our country. And what possible difference (for the better) will it make in the rate of decay in this country?

  16. Sterling Ferguson Sterling Ferguson 30 July 2012

    @Lennon, the new president of AU might look big in SA but, on the international stage she isn’t big. The AFRICOM command headquarters is in Germany and not in Africa. There are many countries in Africa that are begging the US to build bases in their countries and the US has so far refused to do so. The US doesn’t want to get involved in these countries vast economic and social problems. However, all of this might change with the military build up in the Indian ocean by Iran that threaten the shipping lanes in that area. There isn’t one country in black Africa that can defend these shipping lanes or their own country from foreign threats. So, you shouldn’t be surprise if you see a US aircraft carrier docketed in Capetown or in Kenya.

  17. Sterling Ferguson Sterling Ferguson 30 July 2012

    @Yvonne, SA has borders with four other African countries and there is no way to stop these people from coming to SA. The home affairs can’t stop these people because they don’t have the resources to enforce the borders patrols. The US has the same problem with millions of people slipping into the US from Mexico to live. The answer lies in building up the economies of their neighbor so the people don’t have leave home. The US doesn’t have a problem with Canada because the people in that country standard of living is like the US.

  18. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 31 July 2012


    Of course we can stop illegal immigrants – we always did before.We had a very strong border police presence with effective patrols and border fencing.

    DO get it into your head that the ANC OPENED the borders as Pan Africanist POLICY – it did NOT happen by mistake!

  19. Sterling Ferguson Sterling Ferguson 31 July 2012

    @Beddy, you and I have been down the road with this many time about illegal immigrants and the first world with more resources can’t stop it so, how can SA stop illegal immigrants? Russia, Brazil, US and Europe are all having problems with illegal immigrants. At one time the Brazilians were coming to the US as illegal immigrants and now Brazil is the home of illegal immigrants. You are concerned about Africans coming to SA and how about the Asians coming to SA illegal? As a matter of facts, when the Europeans divided black Africa, many tribes and families found themselves divided also. In the Mozambique,Zimbabwe and Botswana these people all speak a Nguni language like the people in SA. The people in Swaziland are Nguni people and the English drew a map to separate them from SA. The problem in SA and in Africa is the lack of development. The people in SA should learn how to make money with these people coming to SA like the US is doing. Half of the people in SA are on family grants so, the illegal immigrants are the only people working or there will not be any food on your table. The same can be said about the US if the Mexicans would go back to Mexico the food will rot in the fields in the US.

  20. Lennon Lennon 1 August 2012

    @ Sterling: True. She (or whoever lands in the AU chair) might have more clout if the AU actually functioned properly. I know you think I’ve got some delusional hatred of Americans. I don’t. I just don’t “smaak” the US Government. The same goes for the Chinese actually.

    If the AU could pull finger, it would be able to fix things without the need for outside help. Then again, if wishes were horses…


    I would be well-impressed if the next carrier to dock at CT Harbour is the new Gerald Ford class carrier….. Sadly, that’s still a few years off. :(

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