South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, has said the ruling ANC party is ready for its first female leader, days after his former wife was named by the party’s influential women’s league as its choice to succeed him.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has four children with President Zuma, is the head of the African Union Commission and a leading candidate to succeed her ex-husband after the 2019 general election.
Zuma is expected to step down as African National Congress leader at the end of this year, and whoever takes over will be the frontrunner for the presidency.
Dlamini-Zuma, 67, has not declared her candidacy, but the ANC women’s league gave her a major fillip last weekend with a public declaration of support.
“It is no longer a discussion in the ANC whether a woman can take a high leadership position or not,” Zuma said. “The ANC is ready for that. In fact the party has been ready for some time.
“It will depend on the integrity that she possesses and whether members see her fit for the position.”
In August, the ANC – which assumed power in 1994 under Nelson Mandela after the end of apartheid – recorded its worst-ever local election results.
Among Zuma’s other possible successors are the deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, and the ANC treasurer-general, Zweli Mkhize. Zuma survived an attempt by ANC rivals to oust him in November, shrugging off criticism of his conduct by the official anti-corruption watchdog and constitutional court.
Dlamini-Zuma is not seeking a second mandate at the African Union, a move that has increased speculation that she has ambitions to succeed her ex-husband at the ANC. She has held a string of ministerial posts under South African presidents, including the foreign affairs and home minister portfolios. Her four years at the head of the AU have also given her an international profile.