Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign has many unanswered questions
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign has been filled with vague platitudes and not enough detail on policy issues, transforming the economy and breaking the monopoly of the four big banks
In the days leading up to the ANC national conference held in Polokwane in December 2007, a colleague and I asked then foreign affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma why she was turning down nomination for an almost guaranteed post as the party's national chairwoman in favour of a slate that looked bound to lose. We were at her then official residence in Bryntirion Estate, Pretoria, where she had returned for a day or two before embarking on yet another international trip.
I privately suspected that her busy schedule, which kept her outside the country most of the time, prevented her from accurately reading the mood within her party.
Dlamini-Zuma was in a peculiar position in that her name was the only one that featured on both slates in a contest that was heavily driven by the "you are either with us or against us" mentality.ANC branches backing her ex-husband, Jacob Zuma, to become president nominated her as national chairwoman, a post which would have made her the fourth-most powerful person in the ANC after Zuma, his would-be deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, and would-be secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.
Other party structures behind then president Thabo Mbeki's bid for a third term nominated Dlamini-Zuma for the ANC deputy presidency, a post which would have made her a shoo-in for the country's presidency in 2009 as Mbeki would not have been eligible to stand for another term as head of state.
She declined nomination by the Zuma camp - much to the chagrin of her comrades in her home province of KwaZulu-Natal - and threw in her lot with Mbeki.
The KwaZulu-Natal ANC had assumed she would be on Zuma's side because two years earlier - when Mbeki fired Zuma as the country's deputy president - Dlamini-Zuma was said to have declined taking over the post on the grounds that it would divide her children who were still hurting over their father being axed.
Why then, we asked her, choose the Mbeki slate when it was so obvious that Zuma was winning the race? Because women want to break the glass ceiling in politics and being in the presidency is a major step towards doing that, she basically said.Hers was something much bigger than merely choosing a side in a fight between her friend-cum-boss, Mbeki, and her ex-husband, Zuma. She saw herself as being on a historic mission for gender equality and would not settle for a lesser position.
That she would most likely lose to Motlanthe - as she eventually did - was something that did not deter her.
It is this that probably drives her in her current campaign to be ANC president, although it is hard to tell what is on her mind these days as she does not give interviews to this publication or others that she considers to be prejudiced against her bid.
FIGHT BETWEEN BIG MEN
Political commentators and ANC lobbyists tend to overlook her personal ambition and always see her through the prism of a factional fight between big men where her role is only a supporting one.
In 2007, she was seen as a pawn in a game of power politics between Zuma and Mbeki in which she presumably allowed herself to be used by the latter in an unsuccessful bid to split the former's KwaZulu-Natal stronghold.
In the run-up to the 2012 ANC national conference she was viewed as a Trojan horse who would be used by the defeated Mbeki camp to recapture the keys to Luthuli House. When Dlamini-Zuma opted not to run against Zuma that year but rather to take up his offer for her to become the AU Commission chairwoman, those of her comrades who found themselves in the cold for having backed Mbeki in 2007 felt betrayed.NEEDED THE ZUMA CAMP
All of this is not to say that Dlamini-Zuma's association with the Zuma camp is not a huge burden for her bid to become the country's first woman president; it clearly is.
It is possible that she believes the only way to win the ANC presidency will be with Zuma's blessing, and so she needs his camp on her side.
It is a strategy that her rival,Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, pursued in the run-up to Mangaung in 2012. It resulted in him becoming the party's second-in-command and being in pole position ahead of the party presidential election this year.
If embracing the Zuma camp - with all its controversial personalities such as Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and MK veteran Carl Niehaus - is merely a strategy to get to the top job, what should we expect from a Dlamini-Zuma presidency once she reaches the Union Buildings?DO YOU NATIONALISE?
It is not enough to merely define "radical economic transformation" as "a fundamental change in structure, systems, institutions, patterns of ownership, management and control of the South African economy in favour of the people" without detailing how this is going to be done.
Do you do that by demanding that a percentage of established white business be sold or given to black participants à la the indigenisation policy in Zimbabwe? Do you nationalise?
She bemoans the dominance of the four commercial banks, saying their "monopoly" prevents "a majority portion of the population" from accessing finance.
But everybody decries this; a presidential candidate should be able to tell us how they are going to change it, especially as it is a problem the ANC has been talking about since its national general council in 2000 - 17 years ago!