Jacob Zuma publicly endorsed his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for president

President Jacob Zuma has for the first time tacitly and publicly endorsed his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to replace him as ANC president‚ which will also see her elevated to the country’s top job.

Zuma has spoken glowingly about Dlamini-Zuma’s leadership qualities‚ describing her as “very bold” and “someone you can trust” – and wished that the ANC would see that it had a leader in her.

Zuma was speaking at the St Catherine’s Roman Church in Dlamini-Zuma’s birthplace in Bulwer‚ in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands‚ where they both attended a service on Sunday before later joining the congregants of the Abundant Life Church in Durban.

“She is bold and you can’t fool her. She is someone you can trust‚” said Zuma‚ whose speech was delivered in Zulu.

Zuma said these characteristics were why the late president Nelson Mandela had appointed Dlamini-Zuma as health minister when he established his first cabinet after the 1994 elections.

He said when Thabo Mbeki took over from Mandela‚ he had made her foreign affairs minister.

“When I took over and because I knew her qualities‚ I appointed her as home affairs minister. She has her own way of doing things‚ which is very important‚” said Zuma.

Zuma said it was because of her leadership qualities that she was appointed as chairperson of the African Union (AU) in 2012 — a position she vacated last year.

“She turned the AU into what we wanted it to be. She is very respected in Africa and it would be surprising why she would not be respected in South Arica.”

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Zuma praised the way in which the Roman Catholic Church had welcomed Dlamini-Zuma‚ saying it was a huge lesson for him as it showed that they knew her contribution.

“This is very nice and perhaps it is also going to teach us in the ANC that we have a leader‚” he said.

Dlamini-Zuma‚ who sat next to Zuma during the service‚ is widely expected to go head to head against Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa for the coveted ANC presidency during the party’s elective conference in December.

Zuma and his ex-wife were joined by KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairman and Economic Development MEC Sihle Zikalala who told congregants that Dlamini-Zuma was still going to lead.

“Mama Nkosazana has led us but I don’t want to lie she is still going to lead us. People may say whatever they like to say but ANC structures are still going to speak and when they speak they do not say what is being said by newspapers. They do not speak what we see being said by populists on TV‚” said Zikalala.

He said ANC structures will convey the will of the people “because ANC structures are in people and they know the people’s suffering”.

The former AU Commission chairperson — believed to be Zuma’s choice to succeed him as president — has been openly endorsed by the ANC Women’s League and the ANC Youth League while Ramaphosa has been endorsed by Cosatu‚ SACP and SANCO.

Zuma also launched a blistering attack on the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) for meddling in the affairs of the ANC instead of resolving their own problems.

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Zuma’s attack was in response to the strained relationship between the ANC and its Tripartite Alliance partners over his leadership and his recent controversial cabinet reshuffle.

Both Cosatu and the SACP have joined the chorus of calls for Zuma to step down. They have also publicly endorsed deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed him as ANC president in December. But Zuma has supported his ex-wife and former African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him.

Speaking during a prayer meeting for peace and prosperity organised by the Abundant Life Church at People’s Park near the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Sunday evening‚ Zuma questioned why alliance leaders were discussing ANC issues and not their own.

“They have problems but they never talk about that. The ANC has never discussed any of the alliance partners. Then what makes the alliance talk? These are the questions we should be asking‚” said Zuma.

He said he would ask that question one day “but I’m not here for that. I’m here for prayer”.

“I think we’ve been quiet for too long because we’re behaving ourselves but I think the church leaders here have given us the lead to say enough is enough‚” said Zuma.

Zuma also questioned why he was being attacked ahead of the ANC’s elective conference in December when he was not going to stand for re-election.

“The questions that we need to ask ourselves is why‚ when we’re heading to the elective conference‚ the one who was president and who is not going to stand is fought against so much?” said Zuma.

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He said he once told priests who were critical of him that they should pray for those who had done wrong.

“What I know is that the one who died for us said‚ ‘Forgive them Lord because they do not know what they are doing.’ So the priests should be saying I should be forgiven as I have sinned. But I am not told what’s wrong that I have done‚” said Zuma.