Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma

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Biographical information

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ANC member, Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Health, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chair of the African Union

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Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was born on 27 January 1949. She received her secondary education at Amanzimtoti Training College until 1967 and began her tertiary studies 1971 at the University of Zululand . She obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Science (BSc) and left the country in 1976 to complete her MB ChB at the University of Bristol in 1978.During the 1970s Dlamini-Zuma became active in underground African National Congress (ANC) activities while serving as the Deputy President of the South African Student Organisation (SASO).

Dlamini-Zuma was married to President Jacob Zuma from 1992 to 1998.At the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), Dlamini-Zuma was part of the Gender Advisory Committee.  In 1994, during the era of former State President Nelson Mandela, she was appointed as the Minister of Health. During this time the Tobacco Products Control Bill, which was enacted in 1999, made it illegal for anyone to smoke in public places. Dlamini-Zuma courted controversy, however, by advocating a controversial anti-HIV/AIDS drug named Virodene. [i] Furthermore, she was in charge of the Ministry of Health during the Sarafina scandal, in which government funds were deemed to misallocated. [ii]

She remained in this portfolio until 1999, when she appointed as the Minister of Foreign Affairs ; serving from 1999 to 2009 in this position. IOL states the Dlamini-Zuma “[earned] praise for her shuttle diplomacy to end the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo but raised] eyebrows with her unsmiling demeanour and indifference to the media.” [iii] From 2009 to 2012, Dlamini-Zuma served as South Africa's Minister of Home Affairs. In this position “… she has won plaudits for turning around a ministry that was mired in mismanagement to achieve a clean audit for the first time in 16 years in 2011.” [iv] Dlamini-Zuma achieved this by ‘ [b] uilding her success on the implementation of effective internal control measures in finance and supply-chain management, [and surrounding] herself with appropriately skilled individuals and staffed frontline offices with additional personnel to provide services.” [v]

In 2013 the South African Government conferred the Order Of Luthuli Award in Gold for her contribution to the liberation struggle in South Africa. Dlamini-Zuma was elected to serve as the African Union's (AU) Chairperson from 2012 to 2017 despite stubborn resistance from Francophone African nations. [vi] Ranjeni Mnusamy argues that this appointment, rather than being a career progression, was in fact an attempt by Jacob Zuma to remove Dlamini-Zuma as viable presidential candidate. She states that “ […] [Dlamini-Zuma’s] nomination to serve as chairperson of the African Union Commission was a convenient way to get her off the domestic scene. Zuma wheeled and dealed with other African countries and regions to ensure that Dlamini-Zuma’s bid for the AU post was successful. “ [vii] In spite of this, Dlamini-Zuma has been argued to have performed well in the position. She is credited by Anton Du Plessis, executive director of the Institute for Security Studies, as changing the environment of the AU in Addis Ababa. Du Plessis states that, “ [Dlamini-Zuma] took some of the testosterone out of the discussion on African peace and security issues. She brought not only a gendered perspective, which was important, but a much more holistic developmental approach to Africa’s problems. If you look at how far the AU has come in its debate on African problems, and trying to take more than just a military approach, history will judge her kindly,” [viii] Dlamini-Zuma was touted to be sworn in as an MP in the coming month, replacing resigned MP Pule Mabe. [ix] She was sworn in as a MP on 21 September 2017 and started her campaign for the presidency of the ANC in earnest. Dr Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma currently serves as the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs as appointed on 29 May 2019.


[i] James Myburgh, “The Virodene affair (II)”, www.politicsweb.co.za/news-and-analysis/the-virodene-affair-ii

[ii] Suzanne Daley, “South African Scandal Over ‘Sarafina’ Spotlights Corruption in the A.N.C.”, www.nytimes.com /1996/10/08/world/south-africa-scandal-over-sarafina-spotlights-corruption-in-the-anc

[iii] “Dlamini-Zuma, the stern diplomat”, https://www.iol.co.za/dailynews/opinion/dlamini-zuma-the-stern-diplomat-...

[iv] Ibid

[v] Nickolaus Bauer, “If Dlamini-Zuma leaves, who will steer home affairs?, https://mg.co.za/article/2012-07-16-with-dlamini-zuma-at-the-au-who-will...

[vi] Simon Allison, “Farewell, Madam Chair: Inside Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s troubled tenure at the African Union”, https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2017-01-23-farewell-madam-chair-...

[vii] Ranjeni Mnusamy, “The curious case of Dlamini-Zuma and her dicey career strategy” https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/opinion-and-analysis/2017-09-11...

[viii] Simon Allison, “Farewell, Madam Chair: Inside Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s troubled tenure at the African Union”, https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2017-01-23-farewell-madam-chair-...

[ix] Jan Gerber and Mahlatse, “ Nkosazan Dlamini-Zuma to be sworn in as MP”,http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/nkosazana-dlamini-zuma-to-be-swor...

• Joyce, P. A. Concise Dictionary of South African Biography
• WhosWho. (2017). Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma . Available at https://whoswho.co.za/nkosazana-dlamini-zuma-919 online. Accessed on 6 February 2017

Last updated : 04-Jun-2019

This article was produced by South African History Online on 17-Feb-2011

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