President Zuma’s ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, could become the next and first female SA President

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the current African Union (AU) Chair and ex-wife of South African president, Jacob Zuma, is positioning herself to become the next President of the country, as well as the first woman to hold the office, in 2019. She will be contesting alongside top politician, Cyril Ramaphosa (current Vice President), who has been vying for the position for decades, and is a common favourite in the races, among other candidates.

Based on the determined advocacy for a female leader for the country by the African National Congress party (ANC) and her impressive history with its politics, Dlamini-Zuma might have the upper hand in 2019’s elections. In addition, she is increasingly vocal about her aspirations and appears to be winning over a fair amount of supporters at a steady pace.

Although President Zuma and his ex-wife separated in 1998, the two have maintained a cordial relationship. Their relationship and history is currently the basis of general criticism towards Dlamini-Zuma’s intentions.

Some skeptics suggest, putting Dlamini-Zuma in office is a personal goal of President Zuma’s, as they believe that he is using his influence to ensure that his ex-wife wins the upcoming elections, through a three-man elite group, known as the “Premier League” in South African politics. The members of the group are provincial premiers and ANC provincial chairmen Ace Magashule (Free State), David Mabuza (Mpumalanga), and Supra Mahumapelo (North West). The President has been unavailable to comment on the issue.

This is not the first time a controversy is surrounding a Dlamini-Zuma campaign and her ex-husband. In 2012, her election for Chair of the African Union (the first woman and South African to do so), was met with grumblings, as a number of African countries did not support her appointment. These implications were made irrespective of the fact that Dlamini-Zuma’s political slate remains admirably spot-free and her achievements practically speak for themselves.

This highlights a common problem concerning women who emerge from powerful political dynasties and aspire to high-ranked political offices. Depending on what part of the world they are from, their ambitions are usually questioned, irrespective of their background in politics and – except for a few cases – their political achievements are usually credited to their ‘links’.

Women in politics, in such a crucial capacity, is yet to become a global norm, as there have only been around 90 female presidents and representative leaders from history till date. The lack of equal representation gives traction in defending why political dynasties are good for women, as without them, the world might have seen far fewer women in political office.

In Guatemala, former First Lady, Sandra Torres, attempted to run for president of the country in 2011, and even though she did not succeed, she was described as a “hero” and credited for role in decision making, while her [ex] husband was in office.

Sheikh Hasina is an example of a female leader who is holding her own, regardless of her family’s link to politics in Bangladesh. She is the current Prime Minister of the country, of which her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was its first President. Presently, Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori is running for President in 2016, despite losing in the 2011 elections. Ghana’s Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings also made a play for office, but failed to win her party over in 2012.

Being a part of a political dynasty might appear to be an ‘easy way in’ for women who aspire to great heights within politics, but political dynasties are not exclusive to women, as more men than women have entered political office through family legacy. Events, both historical and current, have proven that plenty of women have made it to the top by virtue of their own hard work, as well through the voters’ choice.

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