I’m my own woman, says Dlamini Zuma
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She is back home to work for the ANC in whatever capacity, but if asked to stand for president, she says she will not decline, because she has spent her entire life serving her party.
In her first interview since she returned from the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Dlamini Zuma sent the clearest indication yet that she is ready to face her critics and run a good race - if nominated.
She is one of several candidates linked to the race to succeed Jacob Zuma as ANC president in December, and as the country’s leader in 2019.
Although she makes it clear she is not campaigning, as the party has put a lid on canvassing, Dlamini Zuma has been met with vicious campaigns by some of her opponents, who have used her former marriage to Zuma to discredit her, accusing her of using the so-called Premier League as her launch pad.
“I am my own woman and I have worked hard to be here,” she says in an exclusive interview with The Star on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban. “No amount of patriarchy will stop me from serving my people.”
Dlamini Zuma is particularly incensed by those claiming she has the backing of Zuma to ascend to the top, and that she is doing so to protect Zuma from prosecution when he leaves office. She hit back at those who want to link her political career to her former husband.
“I divorced him in 1998, when I was health minister, and long before he became president. He wasn’t even deputy president. He was an MEC in KwaZulu-Natal. I was already in government and had a career for myself.
“But people are quick to forget. I was never first lady of South Africa. And I have no aspirations to marry a president. I have kids with him, so it is inevitable that I will see him from time to time. When you are divorced, you don’t have to be enemies. But I am not his wife,” says Dlamini Zuma. “Even when we were in exile I hardly saw him; we lived together only in Lusaka.
“It’s mischievous people who use their patriarchy to smear my name. It’s worse when it comes from women and fellow comrades, who know I have my own track record in the ANC and in government. I am a doctor and one of the longest-serving cabinet ministers under former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. Before Zuma became president.
“Why would people now think I can only succeed with him pushing me? Why are they raising this issue only now, if not to discredit me and unfairly judge me? Their agenda is clear: women can’t lead. There has to be a man behind them.
“There will always be sexist people in society. They even go to the extent of printing fake news. They say the ANC will lose the 2019 elections if a woman leads the party at the polls. Only a man can unite the party and help us win, they say.”
And it gets worse: “The Sunday Times printed a fake story that I live at Nkandla, that I even have a house there. It’s pure fabrication to push a particular narrative - that I am being propelled to the top by Zuma. I have ordered them to retract the story and apologise,” she adds.
So what will she do with the sexist and patriarchal crowd?
“If you go to the marketplace, there is a lot of noise. You must focus, you must not be distracted. I believe other comrades must deal with it, not me. I just want to focus on the work ahead, uniting the ANC and preparing for the elections in 2019,” she adds.