No hard feelings: Former minister Lindiwe Zulu says she’s happy where she is, but remains available to serve South Africans

Outgoing minister of social development, Lindiwe Zulu. File Picture: Siyabulela Duda

Outgoing minister of social development, Lindiwe Zulu. File Picture: Siyabulela Duda

Published Jul 2, 2024


Outgoing Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu says she feels grateful for the opportunity she had to serve as a Cabinet minister, and does not harbour ill feelings after being left out of the 32 ministers announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa this week.

On Sunday night, IOL reported that Ramaphosa announced an expanded national executive which also has 42 deputy ministers, with some individuals who previously served as Cabinet ministers being re-deployed as deputy ministers in the seventh administration.

In an interview with broadcaster Newzroom Afrika, the bubbly Zulu said she does not feel left out at all.

“Not at all. It doesn’t feel like that at all. It shouldn’t feel like that at all for anyone because I believe we go there knowing perfectly well that you go and serve at the time that you have been requested to serve, and usually that is a period of five years.

Lindiwe Zulu. File Picture: Jacques Naude / Independent Newspapers

“I personally feel good about the impact that I was able to show my skills, having been given the opportunity to study. I am a journalist by profession with a Master’s degree. I am very well experienced in politics, having started way back in 1994. So it was a pleasure for me to serve but it was also a pleasure for me to work with people who are very committed to ensure that they see change for South Africans, for people of South Africa.

“I am very happy where I am. From a point of view of knowing that I did the best, I gave it my best and also for understanding that the Department of Social Development, from the time I started I knew it as a department serving people in different areas but I had not really done any work around it. When I got there, I was able to pick up a lot of things,” she said.

Zulu, a member of the African National Congress’ influential National Executive Committee said the Department of Social Development is about serving South Africans across the board, with special focus on citizens who need to be supported by the State.

In the current Cabinet, Ramaphosa has substituted Zulu with former Deputy Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Sisisi Tolashe. The new minister will be supported by Deputy Minister of Social Development, Ganief Hendricks – leader of Al Jama-ah political party.

Minister of Social Development, Sisisi Tolashe. File Picture: Wesley Fester

Zulu has thrown her support behind Tolashe as she takes over the reins of the critical department which assists millions of South Africans who rely on social grants.

“The good thing is that this is my comrade that I have worked with for a very long time in the African National Congress, and I am happy that it continues to be the African National Congress that is responsible for this very sensitive area of the work of serving South Africans – social development.

“I have already had a conversation with her. I am going to be giving her a handover because one of the things that I have been saying to the department is that I do not want to come in here and be unable to get a sense of where we were, what have we done and what is the way forward,” said Zulu who was at one point former president Jacob Zuma’s special envoy to neighbouring Zimbabwe, around 2013.

At the time, Zulu was international relations advisor to then president Zuma.

In her in-depth profile, government lists that Zulu was educated in neighbouring Eswatini, where she joined the ANC after the 1976 students uprising. In exile, Zulu lived in Morogoro in Tanzania where she was offered a scholarship to study journalism in Russia. She obtained a Master’s degree in journalism.

Minister for SME Lindiwe Zulu speaking at the media breakfast at the ANC 5th national Policy Conference held in Nasrec in Johannesburg. File Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

After her studies in Moscow, Zulu joined the liberation army uMkhonto weSizwe.

In 1991 she returned to South Africa and became the head of communication in the ANC Women’s League. Zulu was elected to the ANC’s team of spokespersons for South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.

After the elections, she was elected a member of the Gauteng Legislature and was appointed Deputy Speaker of the Gauteng Legislature in 1995. Four years later, Zulu was appointed the special advisor to the minister of foreign affairs. In 2001, she was appointed chief director for Western and Central Africa.

Among her many achievements, Zulu became South Africa’s ambassador to Brazil in 2004.

She was elected to the ANC National Executive Committee first in 2007. In 2009, Zulu was elected as a Member of Parliament representing the ANC. After 2009, Zulu was appointed special advisor to the president of South Africa on international relations.

In 2014, Zulu was appointed as the Minister of small Business Development.

In 2019, Zulu was appointed as the Minister of Social Development.

Former Chinese Ambassador to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong handing to then Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu the R500,000 donated to assist impoverished communities in South Africa with food during the Covid-19 pandemic. File Picture

On Tuesday, the outgoing minister says she will continue to serve the people of South Africa.

“I now have to be looking at a whole lot of other things and I wish to thank the African National Congress for giving me the opportunity, because the experience I have is wide, and I am still going to be of service to the people of South Africa,” she said.

“But I also have to take a breather with my family and look at what else I can be able to do.

“I am willing to slug it out there … there is lots of things to do in South Africa, and there is also lots of things to do in the world,” said Zulu.