An ANC source close to the campaign of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma as party president, said a reshuffle was imminent.
Now there is speculation over who she would replace, with several insiders pointing to either Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies or Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi.
“There’s no way she’s going to be a backbencher. Zuma is under pressure to make a number of changes (Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi) Zwane, (Communications Minister Ayanda) Dlodlo are prime candidates to be axed and possibly (Public Enterprises Minister Lynne) Brown because of the scandals over state-owned enterprises,” said the insider.
According to an ANC Youth League leader who has been campaigning for Dlamini Zuma, he was surprised by Friday’s announcement that she would become an MP, saying it would take time away from her campaign.
“The ANC Women’s League had already requested in March that she should take up a seat in Parliament. It’s likely that she might not take up a cabinet position but will chair one of Parliament’s powerful committees like finance, energy or public enterprises,” said the youth league leader.
He said Zuma replacing Kubayi “doesn’t make sense because she’s only recently been appointed”.
The sacrificial lambs could be Zwane and Brown even though they have been supporters of Zuma and, by extension, Dlamini Zuma’s bid to succeed him.
“Davies was not at the launch of the InvestSA One Stop Shop alongside President Zuma on Thursday even though his department sent out the invites. That was very strange.”
One senior ANC MP said the reason for sending Dlamini Zuma to government was to give her access to resources so that she will intensify her campaign.
“This thing (her campaign) is not moving because she is outside (government). When she is inside she will have access to the abundance of state resources,” said the MP.
He said Dlamini Zuma could be sent to health and Zuma can remove Aaron Motsoaledi because there have been tensions with him for some time.
Motsoaledi was one of the senior ministers who spoke out against Zuma last year before former Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom proposed a motion of no confidence in the National Executive Committee.
Another senior ANC MP, who chairs a portfolio committee, said Dlamini Zuma was headed for a senior position.
“Obviously, she can’t go to Parliament to be a backbencher. This deployment means there is a reshuffling coming. We will see who is taken out,” said the ANC MP.
Another senior party MP said it was clear the former home affairs minister was heading back to cabinet.
Independent analyst Professor Sipho Seepe said Dlamini Zuma was too senior a figure in the ANC to be sent to the back benches.
“I thought her not being in cabinet was to be an advantage to her,” he said.
Seepe also agreed that Dlamini-Zuma was going to cabinet. “I am surprised she agreed to it because she was in a better position being outside,” said Seepe.
He said she could be deployed to Higher Education and Blade Nzimande could be removed because the SACP has been vocal against Zuma.
Yesterday the ANC Women’s League welcomed Dlamini Zuma’s appointment to Parliament, saying that she would bring a wealth of experience to the legislature and the ANC caucus.
“The ANCWL is confident that Comrade Dr Nkosazana will contribute immensely in making laws that will improve the lives of the people and eradicate the scourge of inequality, unemployment and poverty,” said ANCWL secretary-general Meokgo Matuba.
Dlamini-Zuma’s move to Parliament had also triggered speculation of the likelihood of Zuma stepping down before his term expires in 2019.
Analyst Professor Bheki Mngomezulu believed this was possible but only after the December conference.
“There is a possibility of him stepping down, but this will rely heavily on who emerges victorious in the conference,” said Mngomezulu.
If Dlamini-Zuma won the conference, Mngomezulu said, it would not be wise for Zuma to step down.
“Because this would further exacerbate the claims that he wanted no one but her to succeed him as president. But if any of the other contenders won, it would be wise for Zuma to step down.”
This would help in mending the fractured liberation movement, he said.
“There would also be a smooth transition of power, not like the one in 2008 when Thabo Mbeki was recalled.”