Dream team or nightmare? The prospect of an ANC led by Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and with Lindiwe Sisulu as her deputy, or better still, the other way around, must make the DA mouth water. Nothing could guarantee an election defeat for the ANC better, helping to ensure a new DA-led coalition government.
These highly experienced and well-educated parliamentarians with famous names, both having held numerous cabinet portfolios, announced recently their co-operation in contesting the two most senior offices in the ANC at its forthcoming elective conference.
Many South Africans laughed. Neither can claim to be popular. Both have survived as cabinet ministers, despite being particularly ineffective in their current portfolios, at the pleasure of President Ramaphosa who seemed to be too weak to rid himself of one thoroughly disloyal minister, Sisulu, and one who was clearly readying herself all along to have another stab at beating him. The old saying is that one must keep your friends close and your enemies closer. If he had had the courage to get rid of these two after the 2019 election, they would have been a good deal more insignificant than they are today.
They are not without merit. I know both of them quite well, having served with them in Parliament for many years and having been appointed as an ambassador by President Mbeki on Dlamini Zuma’s advice when she was the minister of Foreign Affairs. (I leave it to others to decide whether that was a demonstration of her good sense). She was sufficiently flexible and far-seeing to follow my appointment up with that of Sandra Botha, Sheila Camerer and Tony Leon from the DA, our appointments being the only ones since 1994.
I like NKZ. She is intelligent, charming and can be humorous and quite funny. My interactions and anecdotes about her will have to wait until my memoirs are published. But I believe her attachment (serious or feigned) to radical economic transformation (RET) and the influence of her former husband and his ghastly inner circle make her unsuited to becoming the president of South Africa. She is feisty, courageous and she has probably saved the lives of a multitude of South Africans because of her consistent opposition to smoking over the past generation, but at age 73, she really is a little long in the tooth to face a 5 year term.
Lindiwe Sisulu once asked me the following: “Douglas, we used to be such friends; what happened?” I replied truthfully, “Lindiwe, I had the temerity to criticise you.” She has not been a conspicuous success in her various portfolios, however, when she was the minister of State Security, years ago, the DA experienced 17 break-ins at its constituency offices, with computers being targeted. When a DA MP had his house broken into in the Parliamentary village, Acacia Park, I as chief whip of the opposition went to see her. I told her that it could only be her department that was behind these intrusions and that I expected her to investigate and issue an instruction that it should stop. This she undertook to do. Like magic, there were no more burglaries. That demonstration does not make up for her general lack-lustre ministerial performance and worse, for her continued undermining of her president and her cabinet colleagues by making public declarations that delighted the Zuma groupies and the state capture mob.
Sisulu is not presidential material. Nor is Dlamini Zuma.
[i] Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand. His website is douglasgibsonsouthafrica.com