Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma bids farewell to African Union

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s term as the head of the African Union has drawn to a close. No stranger to politics, she held the position for two terms. We look at her career highlights.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is the first woman to head the African Union. Her term runs until the end of January 2017. (Image: African Union, Twitter)

Brand South Africa reporter

She’s been a freedom fighter, a politician, a diplomat, a doctor and now her latest role as head of the African Union (AU) – the first woman to hold the position – has come to an end. As Chad’s Moussa Faki Mahamat takes the reins at the pan-African organisation, we look back at Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s career.

On its website, the AU describes Dlamini-Zuma as “a lady of noble character; a visionary leader, with an incredible passion for the African continent, its developmental ambitions, and is a champion of the renewal of Africa”.

She had shown depth and understanding about issues dealing with the African continent and had a great grasp of the dynamics of the AU, the organisation said.

Watch:

Her early life

Dlamini-Zuma was born during apartheid, on 27 January 1949, in KwaZulu-Natal. But that did not hinder her academic ambitions. She went to the University of Zululand where she read zoology and botany. She graduated with a BSc degree and moved to the University of Natal to begin her medical degree. At the same time, she became involved in South Africa’s liberation struggle.

In 1976, she became deputy president of the South African Students Organisation and went into exile. She still completed her medical degree, but at the University of Bristol in the UK.

Dlamini-Zuma: the politician

After the first democratic elections in 1994, Dlamini-Zuma became South Africa’s minister of health in Nelson Mandela’s government.

In that role, she:

  • Successfully transformed a health system that was racially divided;
  • Introduced anti-smoking legislation making public spaces and some private spaces such as schools, clinics, airports, hotels and offices largely smoke-free;
  • Negotiated with pharmaceutical companies to provide generic, and often cheaper, medication to South Africa. “The successful settlement of the matter was hailed as a victory not only for South Africa, but also the poor around the world, particularly in the developing world,” reads her profile on the AU website, and;
  • Initiated a pilot programme in which medical students and graduates participated in community service, often working in impoverished areas.

From 1999 to 2009, Dlamini-Zuma was the minister of foreign affairs, during which time she actively worked towards peace, development and stability on the continent.

In 2012, she was elected the chairperson of the AU, becoming the first women to hold the position.

In a list http://www.trtworld.com/business/2016s-most-powerful-women-142718 of 2016’s most powerful women published by Turkey’s national public broadcaster, Dlamini-Zuma was number six.

It was a list “not based on financial status, but rather skills, creativity and influence making a significant impact in various fields”, the article clarified.

AU legacy

When the AU marked its 50th anniversary in 2013, “Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want” was unveiled. Dlamini-Zuma was integral to its development.

Agenda 2063 is the AU’s vision to build an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, and is viewed as a new phase in efforts by Africans to catalyse development of the continent and strengthen African integration and unity.

“It is her biggest deliverable,” said the outgoing EU representative, ambassador Gary Quince. “For the first time, the AU has a blueprint and a vision.”

She also focused on gender empowerment within the organisation, and for women in general.

“For me and my fellow commissioners, wherever I shall be and in whatever capacity, I shall forever remain soldiers of the African cause,” she tweeted at the end of January.

The new leadership of the AU comprises:

Source: African Union

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