Yasmeen Sewnarain
3 minute read
13 Dec 2017
11:00 am

A look into the close bond shared by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Jacob Zuma

Yasmeen Sewnarain

Almost 20 years after getting divorced, the divorced Zuma couple continues to make waves across South Africa.

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

We take a look at the relationship between ANC presidential candidate Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and President Jacob Zuma throughout the leadership race.

Jacob Zuma

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma met Jacob Zuma in the 1970s, a time when both were living in exile. She became his second wife when they married in 1972 and had four children together. The couple divorced in 1998, but have had a cordial relationship since, working as part of the same administration in government under Thabo Mbeki.


Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma celebrates her birthday in 2012, along with President Jacob Zuma and their daughter Msholozi. Picture: Twitter

The ANC presidential hopeful chose to retain her surname after the divorce, perhaps because she is aware of the authority the Zuma name holds.

Speaking at an ANC Women’s League rally in KwaMhlanga, Dlamini-Zuma said: “When I got divorced it was important to keep my children’s identity. They stayed with the Zuma surname. They wanted to abandon it, but I wouldn’t allow it. I have kept that surname for the past 20 years, and I won’t change it.”

The ‘ex-wife’

President Jacob Zuma with Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma during a debate in Parliament to congratulate her on being elected to the AU on September 19, 2012. Picture: Gallo Images

Despite being an esteemed woman in her own right, Dlamini-Zuma continues to be identified as the president’s “ex-wife”.

She has opened up about constantly being linked to President Jacob Zuma, saying it does not bother her.

“I am a freedom fighter in my own right. I joined the struggle not following him, but in my own right. I was an activist in the student movement, I became vice-president of the South African Student Organisation long before I married him, so I’ve been in the struggle by myself, and I’ve worked.”

Though it doesn’t “bother” her, she said only seeing her as Zuma’s ex-wife was a “patriarchal, sexist thing” done by those who had nothing to offer. It only showed her how sexist some people were.



A view of President Jacob Zuma’s homestead Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal. Picture: AFP.

Senior Zuma family members stated the outgoing African Union chairperson has a house allocated to her at Nkandla, and had been visiting the homestead quite often in the past two years.

Zuma relatives said family members were getting used to seeing Dlamini-Zuma at family events and functions, according to the Sunday Times.

“There is no divorce in our culture. She [Dlamini-Zuma] comes here often. This is her home, and nothing happens here without her.”

“Yes, she has a house that she uses in the complex, and it’s used by her and her children whenever they are around,” said another close Zuma relative.

When questioned about these claims, Vukani Lumumba Mthintso, Dlamini-Zuma’s spokesperson, said it was not true, and rather she was based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the AU headquarters are situated.

“You understand that she is divorced from the president, right? How can she also live in his Nkandla home? Even the other wives will never allow that,” Mthintso said.


President Jacob Zuma, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Zweli Mkhize sing and dance during the African National Congress (ANC) 5th national policy conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre on July 05, 2017.

Zuma has publicly backed Dlamini-Zuma on numerous occasions as a candidate to run against Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa after he said the ANC was ready for a woman leader.

The first instance was at an event in Bulwer, KwaZulu-Natal, in May where he spoke at a church service and told the audience: “She is bold, and you can’t fool her. She is someone you can trust.”

Zuma slams KZN ANC for not supporting Dlamini-Zuma enough

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