HARARE – Recent political developments in neighbouring South Africa where president Jacob Zuma has said the governing African National Congress (ANC) party is ready for its first female leader, days after his former wife was named by the party’s influential women’s league as its choice to succeed him, has reminded many Zimbabweans of First Lady Grace Mugabe’s mooted ambitions to succeed her husband, President Robert Mugabe.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has four children with Zuma, is the head of the African Union Commission and a leading candidate to succeed her ex-husband after the 2019 general election.
Zuma is expected to step down as ANC leader at the end of this year, and whoever takes over will be the frontrunner for the presidency.
Zuma recently went off-script when he said on radio that there was no tradition in the ANC that the deputy president should succeed the president. This has been seen as an indication that he wants his ex-wife Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him.
The Daily News on Sunday interviewed a number of social and political analysts on this development and whether this might influence the politics in Zimbabwe with Zanu PF’s women’s league also advocating for Grace to succeed her husband.
Human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga said although Zuma has come out in support of his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma succeeding him as SA president, we must not draw too many similarities with Zimbabwe where Grace Mugabe might want to succeed Mugabe because the two scenarios are vastly different.
“Unlike Grace who until recently held no post in the party, Dlamini-Zuma is a senior ANC leader with a strong track record having served as senior cabinet minister in different SA administrations and currently holds a senior post on the continent as African Union Commission chairperson.
“Whereas Grace is a political novice, we have Dlamini-Zuma a woman with political gravitas who in her own right, independent of her ex-husband, has the capacity to lead South Africa.
“Dlamini-Zuma’s nearest equivalent would be Joice Mujuru, for they are both veterans of the struggle in their respective countries, married senior political figures while maintaining their own luminous political careers,” said Mavhinga.
Social commentator Rejoice Ngwenya said: “Actually, the Zuma ‘dynasty’ must have been influenced by our Zanu PF women’s league! Bad politics is contagious, so I cannot rule out reverse osmosis.
“If Zuma claims South Africa is ready for a female president, now, why did he not say South Africa is ready for a youthful president when Julius Malema was clamouring for leadership renewal?
“This is all about self-preservation, greed and perpetuating the monarchical mentality. I have no problem with female presidents — Dlamini-Zuma has the credentials but Grace is a no no!”
Journalist Viv Maravanyika said: “Definitely the events in South Africa will give strong credence to those in Grace’s camp as well as the first lady herself. They can also point out how Hillary Clinton was backed by her husband Bill (former US presient) in the recent elections. It’s well and good to receive that support, but what are her qualifications? Is she really presidential material? I don’t think so.”
Social commentator Farai Maguwu said there are contrasts and similarities.
“Indeed Zanu PF women and youth leagues might be emboldened by the ANC women’s league and go for the jugular by nominating Grace.
“However, the matter of national leadership is beyond and above one’s biological composition. It’s about delivering hope and change to the masses. It’s about a person whose heart is in the right place, someone who loves the people and one with a vision that leaves no one behind.”
Maguwu said by rising to the position of chairperson of the African Union Commission Dlamini-Zuma has demonstrated that she has the capacity to lead.
“Many on the continent feel she has held that position with much wisdom and honour. I am not sure how she compares with Grace.
“I would really think Grace would do well to continue with her world renowned charity work in Mazowe. Actually my advice to Zanu PF is that they need someone who can unify the party and the nation if they are to be of any relevance beyond Mugabe’s life.”
A political analyst who preferred to remain anonymous said the only similarity is that Dlamini-Zuma and Grace have or had a relationship with Presidents of countries in southern Africa.
“What happened in South Africa may never have a political domino effect to the current politics in Zimbabwe. Dlamini-Zuma has in her own right, strong domestic and regional credentials to warrant her nomination to lead South Africa. While her ex-husband’s support may be crucial, in her own right, she has a track record to command the support of the ANC. In other words, she has a constituency base and national and regional appeal to lead that country.
“Grace has no domestic and regional credentials to marshal support. Her base is her husband, without whom she will just be political nonentity.”
Human rights activist Edna Masanga said: “That is a very worrying regional precedent to be set by South Africa if that happens. Because we have already seen efforts to create a Mugabe dynasty being put in place with the president’s son-in-law being appointed to run the national airline, his nephew being appointed minister and the wife leading one of the powerful arms of Zanu PF — the women’s league.”
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said: “It’s likely to influence the same here. Though prospects of a Grace presidency can only live while Mugabe is alive. Once Mugabe is gone, Grace may be removed from the political limelight as she has caused a lot of friction within Zanu PF and she has created more enemies within the party, including both women and youth leagues. Those that pretend to respect her do so owing to their respect for Mugabe. Thus in that vein drawing parallels between South Africa and Zimbabwe on this one may be far -fetched.”
Social commentator Rashweat Mukundu said: “While I don’t rate Dlamini-Zuma that highly as a leader, she is however, a political leader in her own right with credentials going back a long time. While Grace could be inspired she does not come anywhere near Dlamini-Zuma as a politician. While Grace’s claim to fame is simply being Mugabe’s wife, Dlamini-Zuma has impeccable credentials as a political leader both in SA and in Africa.”
Journalist Tichaona Sibanda said: “The political dynamics are different in that Dlamini-Zuma has held public office for years beginning in exile whereas Grace’s meteoric rise has been at the benevolence of her husband. While Dlamini-Zuma maybe electable at an election we can’t say the same for Grace, hence her opponents in Zanu PF will make sure that never happens.”
Arts practitioner Josh Nyapimbi said: “Zimbabwe and South Africa body politics are very different; the female examples you give will be accepted and not for different reasons. In the Dlamini-Zuma case she literary had her leadership rehearsal at African Union which is her strongest point. While for Grace she has no tried and tested public office service.
“Further ANC has somewhat a progressive political culture compared to Zanu PF judging by economic performance and foreign relations which they are sensitive to and always shield from partisan politics straying brick bats.”
Media practitioner Nigel Nyamutumbu said: “I don’t think we can even begin to compare the illustrious political career of Dlamini-Zuma to that of Grace. By all means, it is very noble for women to be nominated or take up positions traditionally occupied by men.
“The case of the immediate past AU Commission chair is by miles different from that of Grace in that whereas the former’s political history is well documented both within her party and government, the latter is a political novice and her rise to power has more to do with her husband’s position that her own credentials.”