POLITICS
01/02/2018 16:50 SAST | Updated 24/04/2018 17:49 SAST

Everything You Need To Know About Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

This is how NDZ paved her political career path.

This profile was first published as a HuffPost SA special report on August 16.

In NDZ world, it's all about the work. There are meetings that last from 10am to midnight and "16-hour days, seven days a week".

Aside from the fact that Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma likes music, one of the few personal details people who know and have worked with her were willing to volunteer, is that the pitch of her voice drops when she is angry.

When she does speak in a low voice because there is "an issue", it's also about the work.

"She doesn't have any problem with a person who does his or her work to their ability," says the director-general of home affairs, Mkuseli Apleni. "She looks like this soft person. But she does put her foot down. If you don't know your story, unfortunately you don't know your story. And she will pick that up."

Febe Potgieter-Gqubule, a former adviser to Dlamini-Zuma at the African Union Commission, says her impatience with sloppiness might explain why there is a perception that Dlamini-Zuma is not good with people. "I think she's an introvert and shy. But she also likes things done. When things don't get done, she speaks plainly, which people don't like."

Mathatha Tsedu, professor of journalism at Wits who has covered Dlamini-Zuma's work for several years, says her restraint can come across as aloofness or arrogance. "I think her personality is not a bubbly personality. She is a stern and serious person, you know. That's who she is ... It's not like she is some ogre who never laughs ...

"When you sit with her, she's actually a very good person who worries about serious issues ... She's not into theatrics. She's more into substance. That's how I read her."

Independent political reporter Carien du Plessis, who is writing a book about Dlamini-Zuma, has observed a difference in the response people have towards Dlamini-Zuma and President Jacob Zuma. "What I picked up in the rural areas is that she's not as wildly charismatic as [Zuma] and the welcome that she gets is not as wild as the welcome he gets but there is warmth ... People feel warmly about her."

Gallo Images / The Times / Thuli Dlamini
Dlamini-Zuma visits residents of Nquthu, KwaZulu-Natal, during the ANC's door-to-door bi-election campaign on May 17.

'If it's unresolved, it's strategic'

Apleni first worked with Dlamini-Zuma in the department of foreign affairs, which he joined in 2000 when she was minister of foreign affairs.

His early impression of her was that she was a leader capable of "rallying her troops" behind a vision.

When he became deputy director-general in 2003, he worked with Dlamini-Zuma more closely.

And again from 2009, when she recruited him to the department of home affairs as chief financial officer.

Apleni describes her management style as "management by guidance" -- she gives someone the space to manage their portfolio, provided that they perform.

A principle he learnt from her, is the view that "as long as something is not resolved, it is strategic. Whether you think in your head this thing is operational, this thing is mundane ... but if it is not resolved, that matter is strategic."

He says Dlamini-Zuma can be a "difficult nut to crack". "My advantage is that I have worked with her for a long time. Let's say we are in a meeting in this room and she comes there, I would know, today is going to be tough. There is an issue."

But, he says, Dlamini-Zuma will ensure that a tough meeting ends in a good mood. "She will never want the meeting to close in that mood. She will make sure that by the time that thing is closed, we're back to laughing."

Apleni says that once you've agreed on a decision, Dlamini-Zuma will stand with you.

He gives the example of the move to increase passport fees from R190 to R400 in 2011 because it cost R350 per passport to print.

When there was a public outcry about the increase, Dlamini-Zuma wanted to know where the money would come from to cover the shortfall if they were to reverse the decision.

Rather than overturning the decision, "she said: 'Let's go and explain to the public.'"

What's in a record?

Dlamini-Zuma has a long record of service as minister.

However, Professor Susan Booysen of the Wits School of Governance, says "wherever she has been in state deployment in high positions, there has ... been ambiguity as to the extent to which she actually made a success of that project".

Wherever she has been in state deployment in high positions, there has been ambiguity as to the extent to which she actually made a success of that project.Susan Booysen

"At foreign affairs, she was put into that position because [former president] Thabo Mbeki knew he could still run the portfolio."

Du Plessis views Dlamini-Zuma's ability to toe the line as both a strength and a flaw. "She would push an ANC line and even though she has convictions, she would suppress them in favour of what is expected of her. For instance Zimbabwe. I don't think she really ever believed in the silent diplomacy Mbeki was pushing. I think she had serious concerns about what was going on in Zimbabwe but in public she pushed the silent diplomacy ... As a president it might be different. She might have more power."

Du Plessis says Mbeki's influence might again have been at work in the case of the Virodene scandal. "... She's a very clever player. If you look at what happened to Barbara Hogan [former minister of health and public enterprises] or [Nozizwe] Madlala-Routledge [former deputy minister of health]: if you kick too hard against the system, it kicks you out. So she [Dlamini-Zuma] has a way of playing the system and still trying to effect change."

Gallo Images / Sowetan / Sandile Ndlovu
Dlamini-Zuma told a Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) forum to embrace change.

There is something that Tsedu finds puzzling, given Dlamini-Zuma's record: "I have always found her to be quite principled. And this goes back to even the time around 2007, going to Polokwane. If she had been somebody who just wanted a position, she would have accepted [the] requests by Jacob Zuma to become chairperson. She refused and stuck with Thabo Mbeki, knowing that ... Polokwane was going to be a disaster for that team."

Tsedu says, when he asked her about her decision, she said she had to be able to live with herself.

"In the context of what is happening now, I keep going back to that and ask myself whether she is happy with herself at the moment because she has either willingly or unwillingly hitched her wagon on a troop of horses that are not the best of horses. Corrupt people who are seen as Gupta puppets and captured by the Guptas.

She has either willingly or unwillingly hitched her wagon on a troop of horses that are not the best of horses. Mathatha Tsedu

"I keep going back to that 2007 conversation and wonder how she is living with herself at the moment."

About that turnaround

Some say Dlamini-Zuma doesn't deserve credit for the turnaround at the department of home affairs as it was initiated by her predecessor and had gained significant momentum by the time she was appointed minister. The current director-general of the department, Mkuseli Apleni, sheds some light on her approach to the turnaround during her term as minister of home affairs.

In 2009, Apleni was recruited to the department of home affairs when Dlamini-Zuma took on a new Cabinet portfolio. Here, she simplified the department's mandate so that employees and the public would understand it. "She was the first minister to say: 'Home affairs deals with people from cradle to death,'" he says.

This meant that people's lives depended on home affairs' services because the services were not available anywhere else. "Normally, being a monopoly is an advantage to you. But in this sense, it is giving you more responsibility ... "

Apleni says Dlamini-Zuma's approach was to first prioritise civic services. "She said charity begins at home ... Immigration is a very important aspect of the department of home affairs, but start at civics. Once we have sorted that out the public [will have] confidence in the department, in government ... At that time, an ID was taking about 180 days.

"That is why we were really crying when she was leaving ... At that time she was saying to us: We've turned the corner around civics, now let's start with immigration ..."

Apleni says Dlamini-Zuma understood that the department would not be able to deliver on its mandate if the management side -- finances, human resources and the like -- was weak. In terms of recruitment she focused on the management side and elevated the status of the anti-corruption unit to the level of deputy director-general.

In 2011, when the department only achieved 25% of its targets, Dlamini-Zuma reversed performance bonuses that were not in line with performance. "Those things were reversed and we won that case [when] they took us to court," says Apleni.

@DlaminiZuma

Powerful gender activist or ANC kowtower?

"Gender activist" are the first two words on Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's Twitter bio. The description trumps her position at the African Union (AU) Commission and three Cabinet positions in order of importance.

The emphasis on gender is hardly surprising given her backers' push for a woman president. But is it fair to claim this title?

Febe Potgieter-Gqubule has known Dlamini-Zuma "since the early '90s", when Potgieter-Gqubule was on the national executive committee of the ANC Youth League.

Potgieter-Gqubule would later become ambassador to Poland when Dlamini-Zuma was minister of foreign affairs, and deputy chief of staff of the AU Commission during Dlamini-Zuma's tenure as chairperson.

She says Dlamini-Zuma has been "very passionate" and "very consistent" about women's empowerment since she has known her. "She was one of the people in the ANC Women's League who listened to us. And also [spoke] to us about issues like why it's important for women to organise within the youth movement."

When Potgieter-Gqubule was recruited into the foreign service in 2005, she says, it was at a time when Dlamini-Zuma "wanted to recruit more women at ambassador level. [There was a] strong push around women's empowerment."

At the AU, Dlamini-Zuma's position was that "no team can play with half its players. We're not replacing men -- we're just adding the talents and creativity and experience of women," says Potgieter-Gqubule. "And in every sector -- whether it is in infrastructure, it's in the blue economy, whether it's in agriculture -- during the four-and-a-half years, she pushed that you need to look at specifically the needs of women."

Mbuyiselo Botha, a commissioner of the Commission for Gender Equality who spoke to HuffPost SA in his capacity as a gender activist, says Dlamini-Zuma "opened doors" for him when he established men's forums to tackle gender equality while she was a minister. "It was unheard of [then] and she was open and amenable."

He says during her tenure at foreign affairs she "elevated women to positions where they could take decisions".

But there were disappointments as well. Botha gives the example of Dlamini-Zuma's handling of the case of "known sex pest" ambassador Norman Mashabane.

Mashabane, who has since died in a car crash, was found guilty in a departmental disciplinary hearing on 21 counts of sexual harassment following complaints brought by a number of women while he was ambassador to Indonesia.

"He was found guilty at an initial hearing in 2001 on a battery of charges that included stroking the buttocks of an employee, molesting a staff member in a lift and making suggestive motions with his tongue to another," Sapa reported at the time.

While he remained in his position pending an appeal, he was again accused of sexual harassment. He was found guilty in a disciplinary hearing and informed of his dismissal but Dlamini-Zuma upheld his appeal.

At the time, the complainant in the second case, Lara Swart, told Rapport: "I have a senior position and I am in close contact with top officials and ministers. But I got no support from foreign affairs.

"What message does this send to women in foreign affairs?"

The Pretoria High Court subsequently set aside Dlamini-Zuma's decision.

Says Botha: "The sad thing is that she [Dlamini-Zuma] was not able to be firm; she was not able to take action."

Gouws expects Dlamini-Zuma to, for example, speak up when legislation is indirectly or "sometimes quite directly" discriminatory. "Given the type of research that I do, I never come across her name in that kind of action."

Mpumelelo Mkhabela, a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn) at the University of Pretoria, has a similar view on Dlamini-Zuma's record as a gender activist. "She often speaks in general terms about women and girls, but that hardly makes her a progressive gender activist ...

"If she and the Women's League were true gender activists ... they would have sympathised with Khwezi [who had accused Jacob Zuma of rape] and defended her right to wear a kanga. Until today, we don't know what her views are on this. We know the [ANC] Women's League supported [Jacob] Zuma."

Mkhabela says if Dlamini-Zuma is "to be taken seriously beyond her gender", she needs to "provide a substantively unique, alternative vision to the prevailing misrule, corruption and entrenchment of state capture. She has not articulated her vision on how she would restore the integrity of government."

Rate the campaign

"I've been surprised by the factional nature of Dlamini-Zuma's campaign. In some ways she is almost ignoring what used to be the middle ground of the ANC. She wants to expropriate land without compensation, which is a big departure from current ANC policy, for example. She may know something about ANC branches we don't, but it is still surprising, when you consider many political contests are won in the middle ground." – Stephen Grootes, host of The Midday Report on 702

Mujahid Safodien /AFP /Getty Images
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Dlamini-Zuma greet each other as they attend the 54th ANC National Conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg on December 16, 2017.

  • Since the ANC's national policy conference, the frontrunners in the ANC leadership race have used public platforms to express their views on a number of contested issues, including radical economic transformation and (white) monopoly capital. Explore an interactive map of their activities by clicking on the pins (green pins are for Dlamini-Zuma; yellow pins are places visited by Ramaphosa). Click through the slideshow below to compare Dlamini-Zuma's and Ramaphosa's views on key issues, based on her lecture on the Freedom Charter, delivered in Kimberley, and his address to the South African Communist Party's (SACP) national congress.

NDZ vs. CR: What they said

"One gets the sense that she is very reluctant to speak out against corruption. She depends on Zuma's support base for her campaign. And I'm not saying the other side doesn't have corruption but I think the other side, because of their public pronouncements, there is a much better chance that they will attempt to tackle this beast ...

"One looks for a policy vision. One looks for recognition of the worst of South Africa's problems and that is absolutely state corruption." – Professor Susan Booysen of the Wits School of Governance

"A lot of it [the campaigning] you can't see because she's going to the branches ... People are campaigning in the branches for her. I think she's got a solid campaign in the sense that for the past few years she's been using her [African Union] position to talk to opinion makers -- to academics, women's conferences and business people. She's got all the sectors covered in a way ...

"Whenever there's a by-election she would go and campaign on the ground. She would go and address cadre forums ...

"The seed has been planted a long time ago. I think a big part of that would be convincing people to accept a women president ... It's difficult to convince men in a country like this. Or in any country. Hillary Clinton had the same problem." – Carien du Plessis, independent political reporter

How will she lead?

"I have the same question about anyone who might be elected in December: Will they have the space to act independently, craft and independent policy platform and chart an independent path? It's highly unlikely." – Aubrey Matshiqi, independent political analyst

"She has acquired some experience leading a continental structure [the AU Commission] and would bring this know-how to running the party in terms of governance, systems and processes. It remains to be seen whether she would continue to encourage the scourge of factionalism that seems to have gripped the ANC or work to eradicate it. This would be her biggest challenge -- uniting the party around common principles as opposed to supporting individuals." – Dr Lubna Nadvi, lecturer in political science, University of KwaZulu-Natal

"The challenges the ANC faces require someone who is not beholden or is seen to be beholden to anyone associated with the current corruption and governance failures. Given the fact that she has no support from the broader alliance, her leadership of the ANC would more likely be divisive and factional. Faced with a Cosatu and SACP that are highly critical of her, and ANC veterans who do not support her, she will be hampered by failure to secure reasonable or sufficient consensus that would position the ANC as a leader of the alliance.

"The fact that she is being endorsed by Jacob Zuma casts a dark shadow on her leadership capabilities should she become president. Receiving support from people whose rot you have to clean, poses a significant constraint on her part. She is yet to say anything substantive about state capture." – Mpumelelo Mkhabela, fellow at the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn), University of Pretoria

Getty Images
A woman is seen wearing a doek adorned with Dlamini-Zuma's likeness during a gathering on December 10, 2017 in Bulwer, KwaZulu-Natal.

"She has not articulated herself systematically in the past ... I have not seen her pushing through and gaining a position in own right ...

"She has not emerged through the ranks as an ANC leader. Much of the reason she has not emerged is that she appears not to have the gravitas as a leader -- that one needs to bring together state projects and the ANC's organisational development needs." – Professor Susan Booysen of the Wits School of Governance

Dlamini-Zuma can get a job done. Will she do so in 2019?

Carien du Plessis, the author of the book Woman in the Wings: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the Race for the Presidency, takes a stab at our questions about the possible future president.

What were Dlamini-Zuma's early influences?

I think black consciousness [was] a strong [influence]. As a student she became involved in the South African Student Organisation that was founded by Steve Biko ... The security police were looking for her all the time and you don't look for somebody if you don't think they're effective ...

She [went] into exile a year before she finished her degree and I think the work that she did in exile also influenced her. She went to the UK and got an education there ... There's some kind of a resentment there [towards the West] but I'm not sure if she picked it up in exile or if it's just a black consciousness thing ...

I think [being in exile] also gave her a strong Pan-Africanist outlook.

In terms of gender, her father ... was quite an empowering figure ... She's from a rural village in [KwaZulu-Natal]. Mostly it was expected of girls to get married and have children but her father was a teacher and he basically said: 'You go and study.'

What should we make of the Sarafina II and Virodene scandals in the context of Dlamini-Zuma's presidential ambitions?

Maybe I'm too kind to her but it was very early on in government. People were making things up as they went along. So I think perhaps she was naïve. But she survived it [Sarafina II] reasonably well. [It was found] that the tender procedures weren't followed and she should have had a grip on that but it has never really repeated itself. In that sense, I think she learnt from that scandal ... [In the case of] Virodene, I think it was partly [former president Thabo] Mbeki's influence ... She had a very good track record talking about HIV and Aids before she got into government. She was quite pioneering at the conferences they had before '94. At the ANC policy conferences, she spoke in a very progressive way about how they should go about [dealing with] HIV and Aids within the context of apartheid South Africa and the socioeconomic issues. So, I think Mbeki led her astray ... I also blame her for being led astray ...

Does Dlamini-Zuma deserve credit for the turnaround at the department of home affairs?

No, she doesn't. Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who was there before her, started the turnaround and by the time Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma came, the momentum was already there and most of the turnaround was done. I think people are giving her too much praise. The message she's been driving or the propaganda from her side is that it's her ... She deserves credit for the clean audit, but the turnaround itself was Mapisa-Nqakula.

What does she deserve credit for?

[At foreign affairs] her first assignment was to go to the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] ... Mbeki was driving the vision [that there should be talks] and she was instrumental in implementing it. So she was shuttling back and forth from Joburg to Kinshasa and all over the region to get this deal together. And she did at the time. It didn't really last -- after 10 years we're having another crisis. But she did get them together and to talk. The DRC had a successful election. So that's one of the successes she's credited with.

There are all these incidents where she emerges as somebody who can get a job done -- who can get people together to talk and to get to a conclusion. Even despite the fact that people say she's not a diplomat at all.

An example of that was in 2001 at the [World Conference Against Racism] in Durban. Everybody [wanted] their different issues addressed, which was impossible. She was chairing because we were the host country and she just told them to ... get real and come to a conclusion. Eventually the summit was a success because of the way she rounded people up and got them to bash their heads together and come to a conclusion.

So she's able to get things done. Where is she lacking?

I think her one big flaw is that she's got no charisma. It also depends on what you want in a president ...

She's not diplomatic at all either. She's not a bridge builder ...

Her children and her ex-husband -- the family life -- is a big weakness because some of her children are attached to their father as well. So she might make compromises for him and for the kids. For instance, if some evidence comes up and she has to take harsh action against her ex-husband I don't think she would be capable of doing it.

Will she be able to handle an ANC election campaign in 2019? ... She's not a rousing campaigner -- she might not be able to win a campaign.

She's not a rousing campaigner -- she might not be able to win a campaign.Carien du Plessis

And the way she deals with the media ... She's not very responsive. She's just a difficult person to get a soundbite from or to be answerable to things.

Dlamini-Zuma counts the "gangster faction" of the ANC among her backers. Is she compromised?

There was ... a story that she received a prize in 2015 from the Guptas for South African of the Year. It was an ANN7 prize. And there's a little video where she's receiving this cheque from her ex-husband ...

She very cleverly donated that money to a charity [the Thusanani Foundation] ... So if she actually took that money and bought herself a big car it would not have looked as good. Now it's basically, she didn't know [that the money had allegedly been laundered], she went there in good faith to receive a prize.

She has been to the Gupta house as well but so has [former DA leader] Helen Zille; so have most other politicians. So there's nothing to implicate her in that.

I'm told the Guptas ... wanted to lobby her for something but they didn't really have much success. In that sense I think she plays it clean. She's extremely clever so I don't think she would do anything that would have compromised her. But we will wait and see*.

The one thing that does bug me about her is the Bell Pottinger thing. [President Jacob Zuma] asked [UK PR firm] Bell Pottinger to look after her. There's no evidence that she protested against that ...

But I think she keeps clean when it comes to corruption.

*Sunday Times has since reported that Dlamini-Zuma had "asked the Gupta family to pay for a business-class ticket for a Cameroonian reporter to visit South Africa when she was campaigning to become AU Commission [chairperson]".

This interview was first published before the release of Woman in the Wings: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the Race for the Presidency.

ndlaminizuma / Instagram
Dlamini-Zuma posted this photo on Instagram when she arrived in South Africa from the AU.

Up with reforms, down with relationships: Dlamini-Zuma's hits and misses at the AU

Cheryl Carolus supports Cyril Ramaphosa's bid to become the next president of the ANC and the country. She is nevertheless quick to dismiss the claim that Ramaphosa's main rival in the ANC leadership race had achieved nothing as chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission.

Carolus, a former deputy secretary-general of the ANC, describes this criticism against Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as "complete nonsense", adding that she was the first person to put the AU on the map.

She believes Dlamini-Zuma is very resilient. "I do think that some of the people who are now backing her, sidelined her into the AU job. I think they were hoping for her to die there and she didn't," says Carolus.

Uduak Amimo, a current affairs host on Citizen TV, Kenya, who has covered the AU for the BBC, says Dlamini-Zuma achieved "quite a bit" during her tenure of four-and-a-half years, but that she seemed to have struggled with relationships. "... there are people who think that she didn't achieve much and I think that just has to do with her management of people, of relationships and perceptions," she says.

"Having gone to the AU and spoken to a couple of staff both on the record and off the record and having spoken to diplomats, I do think there were achievements -- not least getting an agreement on how to fund the AU," Amimo told HuffPost SA.

This agreement would reduce the AU's reliance on funding from foreign donors.

South African senior political reporter Carien du Plessis, who is writing a book on Dlamini-Zuma, says the issue of how the AU is financed had been dragging on for years.

"Every time at the AU summit there is some kind of resolution that it must be addressed ... Nobody could agree on it. [Dlamini-Zuma] managed to get people to agree on a certain plan. It's turning out now that there are some problems with the nuts and bolts of it but she moved that along."

Febe Potgieter-Gqubule, former adviser to Dlamini-Zuma and deputy chief of staff of the AU Commission, says of the commitment towards greater self-reliance: "[Dlamini-Zuma's] issue was: You can't have a programme and then you go around the world to beg for [funding]. You've got to put in the first cent so that people can see you are serious about your own priorities."

Du Plessis says Agenda 2063 -- a 50-year vision for Africa -- is another example of Dlamini-Zuma's ability to get results. While the success of the plan is yet to be determined "the fact that she's been driving through this vision [is significant]. She's very good at that -- she can rally people."

Dlamini-Zuma's motivation was a strong belief that "you have to know where you're going to, and you must be ambitious, in order to then say: 'Okay, this is what we then need to do today,'" says Potgieter-Gqubule.

She says by the end of Dlamini-Zuma's term a number of countries had started to "domesticate" Agenda 2063. "So they looked at how it fits into their national development plans and their budgets ... so it's something that became part of their national planning."

No popularity contest

Dlamini-Zuma didn't have the best start when she joined the AU Commission in October 2012.

"Apparently there was an attempt on her life when she first arrived at the AU. So the first experience of a lot of staff at the AU was of their new boss being surrounded by security," says Amimo.

She says this was particularly disconcerting to those who had become used to Dlamini-Zuma's "gregarious" predecessor, Jean Ping.

Some were unsettled by the level of scrutiny that a number of Dlamini-Zuma's subsequent reforms brought about. For example, she insisted on keeping time and wanted people to account for travel expenditure.

"A lot of her reforms had to do with administration. And so where people had been accustomed to doing as they liked when they liked, you had someone trying to bring in structure," says Amimo.

Du Plessis gives another example of a reform that "didn't make her popular at all". "[When people retire], they come back and they get lucrative contracts with the AU [but] they're actually deadwood. So she [Dlamini-Zuma] put a stop to that. She said: '[When] people retire, they must leave and we bring in fresh blood.'"

Dlamini-Zuma was also criticised for endless meetings that failed to result in a resolution. Says Amimo: "Some would say she brought a very ponderous, onerous style; some people might say [an] intellectual [style]. She's a doctor so she wanted to be sure of everything -- assessing, diagnosing and then prescribing."

Dlamini-Zuma's decision to exclude Western partners from some meetings (she is known to be suspicious of the West) was met with mixed reaction, says Amimo.

"[One view was that] as Africans we need to have spaces where we can talk to each other privately. [Another was that] these foreign partners pay for the bulk of the AU operations. Why antagonise them by closing them out of meetings? Her [Dlamini-Zuma's] response was: 'When do we grow up? When do we as Africans start funding our own vision, our own operations; our own interests? It will be difficult but we have to start somewhere.'"


Potgieter-Gqubule says Dlamini-Zuma's achievements at the AU Commission include:

  • A vision for the continent that stretches beyond a five-year plan (Agenda 2063).
  • A focus on projects that would have a high impact in terms of integration and have spin-off benefits. For example, the launch of the AU passport, the creation of a continental free-trade area to encourage trade between African countries and the creation of a single aviation market.

The latter had been on the cards since 2000, says Potgieter-Gqubule. Dlamini-Zuma's approach was to work with the countries that were ready. "It's an example of the approaches she advocated. You need to have policies that affect the continent but you move ahead with those that are ready."

  • A greater focus on developmental issues. "Even her approach to peace and security has been that the overwhelming majority of African countries are peaceful. But unless you address underdevelopment and unemployment, they're going to become unstable because you haven't addressed the basic issues that people face."

  • The AU's response to the Ebola crisis. Potgieter-Gqubule says the AU Peace and Security Council's decision to send a joint humanitarian and military team to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea was a first in the history of the Organisation of African Unity/the AU. "[They AU had] deployed peace keepers before but never a humanitarian contingent."

After visiting the three affected countries, Dlamini-Zuma established that what was needed most was "boots on the ground". She asked African heads of state to second health workers and the response was "really overwhelming".

When the money to keep the 835 African health workers in the field did not come from the United Nations and the World Bank, Potgieter-Gqubule says, Dlamini-Zuma got together African business people who (along with the African Development Bank) pledged $32 million.

"One of the things that we were really proud of is that we didn't lose a single [African] health worker -- not a single one got infected."

  • The financing of the AU. In 2015 the AU decided to move towards a position where member states would fund 100% of operations, 75% of programmes and 25% of peace operations.
  • "During her term of office Dlamini-Zuma introduced a gender scorecard, which was presented at summits, focusing on how are we're doing with giving women access to land, for example. And during that period a number of countries adopted policies around giving women access to land."
  • "When we got there women professionals in the AU Commission was less than 15%. By the time we left it was about 37%, including at managerial level. She deliberately appointed women into senior positions," says Potgieter-Gqubule.
  • "[Dlamini-Zuma's] position during the entire period was that Africa engage with the rest of the world on the basis of our priorities ... I think that countries came to respect that. It reached the point where very few things happened on the continent without the involvement of the AU."