Embattled South African President Jacob Zuma has come under fire after endorsing his ex-wife and former chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as the next leader of the ruling party, African National Congress (ANC).
Zuma’s party, which is currently facing serious credibility issues, is expected to pick its new leader in December ahead of the next general election, and it is almost certain that whoever will be picked is going to be the next president of South Africa.
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At a church gathering in Bulwer, KwaZulu-Natal, Sunday, President Zuma promoted his ex-wife just a day before the country’s Constitutional Court heard an application for a secret ballot in Parliament to remove him from office, according to the East African.
“She is very respected in Africa, and it would be surprising why she would not be respected in South Africa,” President Zuma said.
“She is bold and you can’t fool her. She is someone you can trust.”
In his remarks, President Zuma insisted that his ex-wife has many distinctive abilities that make her the best qualified person to lead the ANC, the party that fought against Apartheid in South Africa.
Zuma said her leadership qualities have helped her to successfully serve in various government positions since independence, including as Health minister and minister of Foreign Affairs.
He added that it was because of her special way of doing things that she was appointed as the African Union chairperson in 2012, a position she held until 2016.
Dlamini-Zuma was also recently endorsed by the ANC Women’s League even though the presidential succession campaigns have not officially started.
But opposition leaders criticized the president’s decision to endorse his ex-wife, saying they only see a “preferred candidate” capable of shielding her former husband from corruption charges when he leaves office.
Dr. Dlamini-Zuma was born in January 1949 in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, where she lived and studied until she was exiled to the U.K. in 1976. She returned to South Africa in the early 1980s and became an active anti-Apartheid activist, assuming several top positions in ANC.
She met her ex-husband and the current President Zuma in Swaziland, while working as a doctor at Mbabane Government Hospital. They got married in 1982 and divorced in 1998. They have four children.
Although she sometimes disagrees with some of her ex-husband’s policies, Dlamini-Zuma is still a major defender of the ANC and its top leadership.
Last month, she found herself under fire from a segment of South Africans after she dismissed protest marches against Mr. Zuma as “rubbish.”