South African President Jacob Zuma has publicly endorsed his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to replace him as the next African National Congress (ANC) leader.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa have emerged as frontrunners to replace President Zuma at the end of the year.
The South African leader appeared to give his backing to the former African Union (AU) Commission chairperson, when speaking at a church service on Sunday in Bulwer, in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal Province.
“She is bold and you can’t fool her. She is someone you can trust,” he said.
He added that Dr Dlamini-Zuma had a transformative impact on the AU.
“She is very respected in Africa and it would be surprising why she would not be respected in South Africa,” President Zuma said.
The president was married to Dr Dlamini-Zuma for 16 years between 1982 and 1998.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma is believed to be President Zuma's preferred successor and has also been openly backed by the ANC Women’s and Youth leagues.
President Zuma said her distinctive abilities were why the late President Nelson Mandela had appointed her as Health minister when he established his first Cabinet after the 1994 elections.
He said it was no surprise when President Mandela's successor, Thabo Mbeki, made her Foreign Affairs minister when he took over in 2009.
“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 President Zuma.
He added that it was because of Dr Dlamini-Zuma's leadership qualities that she was appointed as AU chairperson in 2012, a position she vacated last year.
Threw his weight
KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairman Sihle Zikalala also threw his weight behind her.
“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 Mr Zikalala.