Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is a fierce campaigner against racial inequality whose hostility to big business has rattled investors in South Africa. She is also one of two front runners to be the country’s next president.
The 68-year-old is vying to succeed her ex-husband, President Jacob Zuma, as leader of the ruling African National Congress at a party vote this weekend, an outcome that would make her favorite for the presidency after a parliamentary election due in 2019.
A medical doctor and former chair of the Commission of the African Union, a pan-continental grouping, Dlamini-Zuma has pledged during her campaign to “radically” tackle the racial inequality that persists in South Africa 23 years after the end of white minority rule.
Backers of her main rival, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, say she is peddling populist rhetoric and would rule in the mould of her former husband, whose decade in power has been plagued by corruption scandals. Dlamini-Zuma declined to be interviewed for this story.
The choice between Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa will influence South Africa’s economic policy trajectory, as well the country’s role in Africa and beyond.
Investors are worried by Dlamini-Zuma’s hostility toward international companies, which she says form part of a “white monopoly capital” cabal dominating South Africa’s wealth.
“A Dlamini-Zuma victory would signal a sharp rhetorical shift toward more leftist economic policy,” said John Ashbourne, an Africa-focused economist at Capital Economics. “A further credit ratings downgrade would be almost inevitable.”
Yet Dlamini-Zuma’s supporters point to a commitment to changing the lives of South Africa’s black majority. Lynne Jones, a psychiatrist and author who lived with Dlamini-Zuma when they were students together in the English city of Bristol in the 1970s, says her determination to fight injustice is rooted in her own personal story.
Jones remembers a day four decades ago when Dlamini-Zuma lay on her bed and wept after being forced to miss her brother’s funeral because the apartheid-era security services had hounded her out of South Africa.
“She was fiercely intelligent and determined,” said Jones.
“Here was someone who had put their whole life on the line and given up home and family for what they believed. It was eye-opening.” Reuters