President Jacob Zuma. Photo: Leon Nicholas.

Johannesburg - South African President Jacob Zuma said the country is ready for its first female leader after 20 years of multi-racial democratic rule.

“South Africa is ready for a woman president,” Zuma told reporters in Pretoria during a state visit by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

“It’s just a matter of time. I actually don’t think it is very far away.”

Zuma is due to step down in 2019 after serving a second and final term.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, his ex-wife and chairwoman of the African Union Commission, is a possible successor.

She won the most votes in the last election of the ruling African National Congress’s national executive committee in December 2012.

Prior to becoming the first woman to head the AU Commission in 2012, Dlamini-Zuma served as South Africa’s home affairs minister and foreign affairs minister.

The leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance party, Helen Zille, is also female.

Africa’s only serving woman president is Liberia’s Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

“Going throughout Africa, Asia and other continents, I think we should look at women as powerful agents of change,” said Bachelet, 62, who served as Chile’s first female president from 2006 to 2010 and was re-elected in March.

“Women are powerful.” - Bloomberg News