Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma (née Dlamini; born 27 January 1949), sometimes referred to by her initials NDZ, is a South African politician, doctor and anti-apartheid activist, currently serving as Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.[1] She was South Africa's Minister of Health from 1994 to 1999, under President Nelson Mandela, Minister of Foreign Affairs, under both President Thabo Mbeki and President Kgalema Motlanthe, Minister of Home Affairs in the first term of former President Jacob Zuma (with whom she was previously married for 16 years) and Minister in the Presidency for the National Planning Commission for Policy and Evaluation under President Cyril Ramaphosa.[2]

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma with Obamas 2014 (cropped).jpg
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
Assumed office
30 May 2019
PresidentCyril Ramaphosa
DeputyParks Tau, Obed Bapela
Preceded byZweli Mkhize
Minister in the Presidency
National Planning Commission of South Africa
In office
28 February 2018 – 29 May 2019
PresidentCyril Ramaphosa
Preceded byJeff Radebe
Succeeded byJackson Mthembu
3rd Chairperson of the African Union Commission
In office
15 October 2012 – 30 January 2017
DeputyErastus Mwencha
Preceded byJean Ping
Succeeded byMoussa Faki
Minister of Home Affairs
In office
10 May 2009 – 3 October 2012
PresidentJacob Zuma
Preceded byNosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula
Succeeded byNaledi Pandor
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
14 June 1999 – 10 May 2009
PresidentThabo Mbeki
Kgalema Motlanthe
Preceded byAlfred Nzo
Succeeded byMaite Nkoana-Mashabane (International Relations and Cooperation)
21st Minister of Health
In office
10 May 1994 – 14 June 1999
PresidentNelson Mandela
Preceded byRina Venter
Succeeded byManto Tshabalala-Msimang
Personal details
Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini

(1949-01-27) 27 January 1949 (age 73)
Natal, South Africa
Political partyAfrican National Congress
(m. 1982; div. 1998)
Alma materUniversity of Zululand
University of Natal
University of Bristol
University of Liverpool

On 15 July 2012, Dlamini-Zuma was elected by the African Union Commission as its chairperson, making her the first woman to lead the organisation or its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity;[3] she took office on 15 October 2012. On 30 January 2017, she was replaced as Chairperson of the AU Commission by Chadian Foreign Minister Moussa Faki.[4]

She ran for the position of President of the African National Congress in 2017 but was defeated by Cyril Ramaphosa at the 54th National Conference of the African National Congress. She is a Chancellor at University of Limpopo

Early yearsEdit

Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini, a Zulu, was born in Natal, the eldest of eight children. She completed high school at the Amanzimtoti Training College in 1967.[5]

In 1971, she started her studies in Zoology and Botany at the University of Zululand, where she obtained a Bachelor's degree in Science (BSc). She subsequently began her medical studies at the University of Natal, where she became an active underground member of South African Students Organisation, and was elected as its deputy president in 1976. She was exiled in the same year and finished her studies abroad at the University of Bristol in the UK in 1978.[6]

Subsequently, she worked as a medical doctor at the Mbabane Government Hospital in Swaziland, where she met her future husband, previous ANC party president Jacob Zuma.


In 1985, Dlamini-Zuma returned to the United Kingdom to complete a diploma in tropical child health from Liverpool University's School of Tropical Medicine. After receiving her diploma, she worked for the ANC Regional Health Committee before accepting the position of director of the Health and Refugee Trust, a British non-governmental organisation. During the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) negotiations in 1992, she was part of the Gender Advisory Committee.

She was suggested as a possible ANC candidate for the Presidency in the 2009 election and for the leadership of the party.[7][8][9]

Dlamini-Zuma was nominated for the ANC political party's deputy presidency by four provinces aligned to President Thabo Mbeki,[10] while the five provinces backing her ex-husband ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma preferred her as the national chairperson.[11] She was elected to the ANC's 80-member National Executive Committee in December 2007.[12]

The speculation of another cabinet reshuffle mounted up, stating that she is to replace Blade Nzimande as Higher Education Minister, which she denied later.[13][14]

South African governmentEdit

Health DepartmentEdit

After the first all-inclusive South African elections of 1994, Dlamini-Zuma was appointed as Minister of Health in the cabinet of President Nelson Mandela, where she continued the work of previous Minister of Health Rina Venter to racially desegregate the health system and broaden state anti-tobacco measures.[15] Dlamini-Zuma introduced the Tobacco Products Amendment Bill in 1999, which made it illegal to smoke in public buildings.[16]

HIV/AIDS and Sarafina IIEdit

In August 1995, against South African Communications Services recommendations for "cheaper and better" HIV/AIDS awareness programmes,[17] the Department of Health awarded a R14.27m contract to Mbongeni Ngema, a "good friend" of Dlamini-Zuma's, to produce a sequel to the musical, Sarafina!.[18]

Investigations into Sarafina II revealed that Dlamini-Zuma had lied to Parliament about funding for the project coming from the EU, and had ignored proper bidding procedures.[19][18]

Following criticism of the poor financial controls and commissioning procedures in a report by the Public Protector, the play was shelved.[20][21][22]

Dlamini-Zuma was also criticised for supporting Virodene, a "quack remedy" for HIV/AIDS,[23] which was in fact a toxic industrial solvent rejected by the scientific community as ineffective.[10][24][25][26]

Foreign Affairs DepartmentEdit

Dlamini-Zuma served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1999 to 2009, under both President Thabo Mbeki and interim President Kgalema Motlanthe,[27] during which tenure she was criticised for her "quiet diplomacy" in response to Zimbabwe's violent land invasions and anti-white sentiment.[28][29]

Home Affairs DepartmentEdit

She served in her ex-husband Jacob Zuma's 2009 presidential cabinet as Minister of Home Affairs from 10 May 2009 until 2 October 2012. She was lauded for turning around the grossly mismanaged department and achieving its first clean audit in 16 years.[10][28][30]

Presidential runEdit

She ran for the office of President of the African National Congress in 2017. She was defeated in her campaign by Cyril Ramaphosa at the 54th National Conference of the African National Congress in December 2017, despite being heavily favoured to win.[31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38] She lost by only a few hundred votes, with 2261 to Ramaphosa's 2440.[39][40]

African UnionEdit

Dlamini-Zuma with U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in August 2014

In January 2012, while still heading the Department of Home Affairs, Dlamini-Zuma contested the position of Chairperson of the African Union Commission. In doing so, she broke an "unwritten rule" that major African powers do not put forward candidates for AU positions.[41][42][43]

This angered many AU states, leading to a deadlock in the first election,[42][44] despite Dlamini-Zuma's backing by the fifteen states comprising the Southern African Development Community.[28][45] As a consequence of the failure to secure a two-thirds majority of the vote, incumbent Jean Ping's term was extended by six months,[46][47] until a second election on 15 July at the nineteenth session of the Assembly of the African Union elected Dlamini-Zuma to the position.[48][49] The vote was largely divided along language lines—Francophone states against Anglophone states.[28][50]

Dlamini-Zuma was unpopular and disliked among AU officials for her apparent aloofness and absenteeism. Her leadership as chairperson was considered a disappointing failure,[26][51][52][53][54] although she was acknowledged for the managerial improvements she made.[44] This included her insistence on professionalism which enhanced the AU's reputation; it was taken more seriously as a result of her interventions.[55] She was also an advocate for increased gender representation in the AU which further exacerbated her popularity issues.[55] Furthermore, "[i]n a room of stuffy old men talking about guns and tanks, she brought in concepts like gender, human rights and food security."[55]


"Rubbish" tweetEdit

On 7 April 2017, Dlamini-Zuma received scorn for labeling protest marches against Jacob Zuma as "rubbish"[56][57][58] and for characterising them as examples of white privilege.[59]

Her verified Twitter account posted "This is what they are protecting... hence some of us are not part of this rubbish. They must join us for the march for our land they stole..." and deleted the tweet shortly thereafter. Dlamini-Zuma referred to the missive as a "fake tweet" afterwards.[60][61][62]

Allegations of connections to cigarette smuggling organisationsEdit

On 5 November 2017, the Sunday Times newspaper published photographs linking Dlamini-Zuma to senior figures in cigarette smuggling organisations operating in South Africa.[63]

COVID-19 LockdownEdit

During the 2020 COVID-19 Lockdown, Dlamini-Zuma made a u-turn announcement regarding the lifting of the controversial ban on the sale of tobacco products within the nation.[64] This was met with intense criticism considering a family member Edward Zuma has shares in Amalgamated Tobacco Manufacturers, a major producer of cheap cigarettes in South Africa.[65][66]

Shortly after Ramaphosa defended her: "After careful consideration and discussion, the NCCC reconsidered its position on tobacco. As a result, the regulations ratified by Cabinet and announced by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on 29 April extended the prohibition," wrote the president. "This was a collective decision, and the public statements by both myself and the minister were done on behalf of, and mandated by, the collective I lead."[67]

South African DJ, Max Hurrell, created a short dance song featuring a recording of Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma saying: "When people zol, they put saliva on the paper, and then they share that zol..." The short dance song was released on his Facebook page, and soon after it emerged on other media platforms, rising to the #1 played song in South Africa on the Apple iTunes music platform. Max Hurrell said: "I honestly made the song just to make people laugh during a tough time, I’ve gotten loads of thank yous from people saying they needed the 'mood-lifter' and so I am grateful that I was able to help people feel better." After the song went viral Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma reached out to the DJ and commended him for entertaining the nation during the lockdown and offered him words of encouragement.[68]

Personal lifeEdit

Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini married Jacob Zuma, with whom she has four children: Msholozi (born 1982); Gugulethu Zuma-Ncube (born 1984), who married the son of Zimbabwean politician and President of the MDC, Welshman Ncube; Nokuthula Nomaqhawe (born 1987); and their youngest daughter, Thuthukile Zuma (born 1989), who was controversially appointed Chief of Staff in the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services in 2014.[69]

Dlamini, Zuma's third wife, divorced him in June 1998.[10][70]

Dlamini's younger sister, Hlobisile, serves as an MPL for the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal.[71]


In 2015, she was listed as one of BBC's 100 Women.[72]

Dlamini-Zuma was cited as one of the Top 100 most influential Africans by New African magazine in 2013.[73]

External linksEdit


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Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Health
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane
as Minister of International Relations and Cooperation
Preceded by Minister of Home Affairs
Succeeded by
Positions in intergovernmental organisations
Preceded by Chair of the African Union Commission
Succeeded by