Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was elected recently to become the first female head of the African Union (AU) Commission. She was the South African Minister of the Department of Home Affairs. She is a member of the African National Congress National Executive Committee and National Working Committee.
She is also a member of the African National Congress Women’s League National Executive Committee and the National Progressive Women’s Movement of South Africa.
She was South Africa’s Minister of Health from 1994 to 1999, under President Nelson Mandela, then Minister of Foreign Affairs from 17 June 1999 to 10 May 2009, under Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Molanthe. She was moved to the position of Minister of Home Affairs in the Cabinet of President Jacob Zuma.
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.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a Zulu, was born in Natal, the eldest of eight children. She completed high school at the Amanzimtoti Training College in 1967. In 1971, she started her studies in Zoology and Botany at the University of Zululand, from where she obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Science (BSc). She subsequently started her medical studies at the University of Natal.
During her studies in the early 1970s, she became an active underground member of the (then banned) African National Congress. At the same time, she was also a member of the South African Students Organisation and was elected as its deputy president in 1976.
In the same year Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma fled into exile; she completed her medical studies at the University of Bristol in 1978. She subsequently worked as a doctor at the Mbabane Government Hospital in Swaziland, where she met her future husband, current ANC party president Jacob Zuma. In 1985 she returned to the United Kingdom in order 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 organization.
At the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) negotiations in 1992, she was part of the Gender Advisory Committee. After the first all-inclusive South African elections of 1994, she was appointed as Minister of Health in the cabinet of President Nelson Mandela.
During her tenure as Minister of Health she de-segregated the health system and gave poor people access to free basic healthcare. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma divorced from Jacob Zuma in 1998.
She brought forward the Tobacco Products Control Bill in 1999, which made it illegal for anyone to smoke in public places.
Following the 1999 general election, Nelson Mandela retired as President and was replaced by Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki appointed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
She was offered the Deputy Presidency of South Africa by Thabo Mbeki after he fired Jacob Zuma, but declined it after talking to her children.
Nkosazana was suggested as a possible ANC candidate for the Presidency in the 2009 election and for the leadership of the party.
She has four children, Msholozi (born 1982), Gugulethu (born 1985), Thuli (Nokuthula Nomaqhawe) (born 1987) and Thuthu (Thuthukile Xolile Nomonde) (born 1988).
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has been awarded honourary Doctor of Law degrees by both the University of Natal (1995) and the University of Bristol (1996).
Nkosazana, we salute you!