News / South Africa

Yasmeen Sewnarain
2 minute read
12 Dec 2017
11:00 am

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma: the ‘direct and abrupt’ woman behind the politics

Yasmeen Sewnarain

There's more to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma besides being a contender for the ANC top job and Jacob Zuma's ex-wife.

Former chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

We take a look at who Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is behind the public persona and illustrious leadership history.

Dlamini-Zuma is no stranger to the world of politics, but her personal life may be even more elusive than Cyril Ramaphosa’s.

Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini


Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma: Photo: Ulrich Baumgarten/Getty Images

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was born in Pietermartizburg on January 27, 1949. She is the oldest of Willibrod Gweva and Rose Dlamini’s eight children.

Dlamini-Zuma obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Science at the University of Zululand, where she subsequently began her medical studies.

Yes, she didn’t always wear her famous doek!

Jacob Zuma


Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma chats with President Jacob Zuma during a 2012 celebration in her honour as African Union Commission chairperson. Picture: GCIS

Dlamini-Zuma worked as a doctor at the Mbabane Government Hospital in Swaziland, where she met President Jacob Zuma. The couple married and had four daughters together: Msholozi Zuma, Gugulethu Zuma-Ncube, Nokuthula Nomaqhawe and Thuthukile Zuma.

Dlamini-Zuma, who was Zuma’s third wife, was married to him for 16 years before divorcing him in 1998. Despite it being almost two decades since their split, the couple remains on amicable terms.


Dlamini-Zuma is not only a natural born leader, but she is compassionate too. In 2012, she was elected by the African Union Commission as its chairperson, making her the first woman to lead the organisation.

Back in 1996 under her role as minister of health, the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act was passed, legalising abortion. Dlamini-Zuma “may have disagreed with abortion herself, but, as the health minister, she couldn’t sit back while women were dying because of backstreet abortions”.

The former African Union chairperson has been praised for being more intelligent and well-spoken than her ex-husband, Zuma. However, she does appear to lack personality and charm, unlike Cyril Ramaphosa, who takes the lead in that department.


Speculation around a ‘wedding’ ring on Dlamini-Zuma’s finger led many to believe she was getting remarried soon. She quickly shut down the rumours and reinforced that she was a self-sufficient woman. “… Everything I own, ring included, I bought for myself. Let’s rather be progressive [on] policies such as gender budgeting.”

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Jacob Zuma. Picture: Twitter

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Jacob Zuma. Picture: Twitter


Dlamini-Zuma’s direct and abrupt nature resulted in her earning the nickname “Godzuma” after the mythical monster, “Godzilla”.

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