While I was involved in Parliamentary politics I had various interactions where I could listen, watch and observe and read the body language of Mrs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (NDZ). My conclusion is, that, like the proverbial curate’s egg, she is good in parts. As somebody from KZN, I have a sympathy with her because her family roots are in Bulwer or Pholela, as I know it, above the Mkomazi River and on the road to Underberg and the Sani Pass into Lesotho.
To her credit, as a woman, it was her own competence and drive that built her career. She was recognised as a leader and years before the introduction of gender quotas. She divorced Jacob Zuma but with four children from their marriage the divorce is more a separation.
While I served on Parliament’s Portfolio Committees on Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs, I saw her as an efficient Minister and administrator who could make decisions and lead and motivate her team of civil servants. One of her best appointments was that of the now suspended Mr Mkhuseli Apleni, as DG of Home Affairs.
Her commitment and loyalty to Communist and socialist ideology is unwavering. She retains a deep ideological affection for Cuba and the left. As Minister of Health, she re-introduced to South Africa a form of indentured labour (the first form was the introduction of Tamil Indian cane cutters to the British Colony of Natal around 1860) in the use of Cuban doctors in flagrant violation of our South African labour laws.
As Minister of Home Affairs she vigorously and impressively set about addressing the endemic corruption amongst the Border Control officials at OR Tambo Airport, in particular. She recruited some 200 army personnel, with no Border Control experience, to be intensively trained for a few months at a special camp in the Northern Cape before they were deployed to passport control. She asked the Cuban Government to provide the trainers and at a handsome fee. Had the Berlin Wall not been long gone, she probably would have been comfortable asking the East German STASI or the Soviet KGB to do the training.
As Minister of Health she went along with Mbeki’s AIDS policies. At a function in the Durban City Hall in the 1990s my wife chatted to and disagreed with her, about her stance on easy abortion. She passed the liberal abortion law which has seen, if one uses a Malema and Manyi’s narrative, tens of thousands of black babies killed every year. In a sense, she is, the Mother of Abortions and this despite her being a confirmed member of the Catholic Church. The pamphlets stuck onto walls and poles around our cities and bus ranks advertising with the untruth of “painless quick abortions”, are her direct and specific legacy from her term as Minister of Health. She was also the Minister through the Sarafina corruption scandal. Her introduction of a “Zuma Year” for newly graduated medics has had generally good effects.
As Minister of Foreign Affairs she practised the politics of the old Bandung Conference and she still detests and mistrusts the USA. She was very happy with Joseph Kabila of the DRC because he was more in the Mugabe tradition. Kagame of Rwanda, who approves of the governance and economic achievements of Singapore, South Korea, Israel and the USA, was a leader she didn’t like. In South Sudan the objective of our Foreign Office was to support a left wing party. She did not enjoy the changes in the government in Madagascar which moved it away from liberation movement ideology. She consistently supported Mugabe and his Marxist-Leninist policies. A legitimate but somewhat far-fetched fear of many South Africans is that she and Jacob could create a dynasty as Grace and Robert Mugabe nearly did. Her important speech at the Gordon Institute on 29 August 2017 emerged in two versions – one was heavily left wing and the other somewhat modulated.
At an inter-personal level she may appear stern and strict, but she is pleasant and has a good but quiet sense of humour but laughing uproariously would seem to be out of character. Her family may have given her the name of “Nkosazana” (Madam) because she was a rather serious little girl. In her physique she is “traditionally built”, or, as we would say in isiZulu “isidudla”. She is a good Chair of meetings and she gained even more experience when she was at the African Union. One view is that she is not particularly enamoured of white people, although she does use the discredited Carl Niehaus, who is white, to carry her briefcase.
Like so many in the left she lives contentedly with the contradictions of having sent her and Jacob’s four children to the most expensive world class South African private schools (no SADTU teachers for her children!) and having a mansion in the upmarket Zimbali Estate in Ballito. The local shopping centre goes into a lockdown that infuriates the local residents, when she goes shopping and her blue light entourage of heavies move in. She likes that Bolshevik style, as Mugabe did. If NDZ is elected President of the ANC later this month it will be an unhappy event for South Africa.
Graham McIntosh is a retired Member of Parliament and served from 1974 until 2014