The former cabinet minister, who spoke out against corruption, issued a stern warning that if she didn't ascend to the throne, it would be a major setback for Africa's developmental agenda, which lacked women and young people.
Dlamini-Zuma also appealed to African governments to seriously consider “emancipating” women by giving them the opportunity to become first citizens and legal eagles.
“We are saying women in Africa must be in politics, they must be judges, they must be all these kind of things.
"We are saying in Africa there must also be women presidents.
“Right now, we have one female president (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf) from Liberia. Her second term in office comes to an end in October this year. We will then go back to where we were. Let's be focused and achieve what we want,” she said to loud applause.
Dlamini-Zuma was delivering the keynote address during a church service at the Faith Gospel Ministries led by Bishop Peter Vuyisile Ndlebende at Khutsong in Carletonville on Sunday.
She was making her first public appearance in South Africa since her term as AU Commission chairperson ended, and her move on Sunday could be seen as the launch of her campaign to ascend the ANC presidential throne.
ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini, Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) chairperson Kebby Maphatsoe, Cogta Minister Des van Rooyen, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa and her International Relations and Co-operation counterpart, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, among others, attended the aptly named sermon “women in leadership”.
Dlamini-Zuma wasted no time making her intentions clear that she wanted to succeed Zuma as ANC president when he steps down in December and, by extension, the country's president in 2019.
She told the congregation that women ought to be in all areas of human endeavour, including the governing of a country.
When women were given tasks to serve as mayors and president, they needed to view that as an opportunity to serve the people rather than themselves, said Dlamini-Zuma, adding that women’s leadership should be inclusive.
She also called for the healing of divisions within the party, saying: “The ANC must be united and must try to unite society around objectives of creating a better life for all.”
Dlamini-Zuma is not the only candidate interested in the top job, as Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC national chairperson Baleka Mbete and Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, among others, have been touted as possible successors.
Dlamini-Zuma, however, is viewed as enjoying Zuma’s support and that of the various ANC structures, including the youth and women's leagues.
She described women as unifiers and compassionate peacemakers and also highlighted her successes at the AU, saying they had come up with a five-year plan, which would be broken down into 10-year medium terms, aimed at the radical transformation of Africa's economy through agriculture, energy and the ocean, thereby creating jobs and promoting peace and stability.
She said corruption was a social ill that should not be tolerated as it was stealing from the poor. It was also corruption for public servants to draw salaries while not doing their jobs, she said.
Bathabile Dlamini, who serves as the Minister of Social Development, said while they would not mention names, due to the ANC ban on the matter, they wanted a candidate who would unite the ANC and the whole country.
She described Dlamini-Zuma as a humble and loyal cadre of the ANC who never turned down any organisational assignment.
“She's returning from the AU. It's difficult where she comes from. People who speak badly about her say she's unco-operative. But she's very simple; she's truthful and she's a leader with two ears. I heard that from (the late ANC stalwart) Harry Gwala,” said Dlamini as she introduced Dlamini-Zuma.
“She changed our healthcare system. In the AU, women are respected today. She also prioritises the youth and encourages it to focus on agriculture and innovation. She has made a mark at the AU and we pride ourselves in her,” said Dlamini.
During his sermon, Bishop Ndlebende said women were born leaders.
The ANC will elect its new leadership in Gauteng in December.