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Diplomacy Portrait of a diplomat Portrait: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Portrait: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

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Portrait: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
Portrait: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
The Elected President of the Commission of the African Union, the South African Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is an experienced diplomat with a strong character.

She is considered one of the most influential women of her generation in South Africa.

Born on January 27, 1949 in Natal, South Africa, she is the eldest of eight children. "I'm not English, I am Zulu," she had said recently. She studied medicine at the University of Zululand. From her youth, she entered politics and joined the ANC which spearheaded at the time the anti-apartheid struggle.

In the sights of the police regime, at a time when the ANC activists risked their lives, she went into exile to continue his studies at the British universities of Bristol and Liverpool.

From there, she helped to organize the struggle of the ANC from abroad. Rising through the ranks within the party, she divided her time between London and Southern Africa.

In Swaziland, where she practiced as a pediatrician in a hospital, she meets Jacob Zuma. In 1982 she became the third wife of the future president. They divorced in 1998.

She returned to South Africa in 1990, when the ANC was legalized again. In 1994, Nelson Mandela, on his arrival in power, she was assigned by the Health Portfolio, with the task to rebuild the public health system, which operated on the principle of racial segregation.

Between 1999 and 2009 she served as foreign minister. In this position, under President Thabo Mbeki she was the architect of the "quiet diplomacy" towards the great neighbor of South Africa, Zimbabwe. She maintains the policy of good neighborly relations with Harare despite the political crisis in 2000 led by President Robert Mugabe to evict white farmers and landowners.

Her experience at the Foreign Ministry forged a solid diplomatic experience. As the current interior minister, she put order into a particular mismanaged department, according to many observers.

She arrives at the African Union armed with a reputation of seriousness, austerity, pragmatism, but also with a difficult character, which lends the nickname "Iron Lady".

Pretoria gains influence

Her critics fear that her election reflects a takeover of South Africa of the African Union. She rejects criticism, speaking of herself in third person: "it will Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will come to Addis Ababa, not South Africa".

Her election was nonetheless a victory for diplomacy in South Africa, and the bloc of 15 countries of SADC (Southern Africa).

She will pick up the pieces of a pan-African organization weakened by internal struggles, and reconnect with a part of Francophone Africa, which had supported the candidacy of Jean Ping.

Proponents of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma also see in her an independent voice from Western pressure.

South Africa had maintained stoutly Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and the former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo.

African Diplomacy Staff
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