OPINION | Pandor for DP – Cyril’s first choice – or NDZ?
The exit of David Mabuza from the parliamentary stage, whether permanent or not, has thrown open the contest for the deputy presidency.
But it has not thrown it open very wide.
Head and shoulders above all other candidates stand two women: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (70), minister in the presidency, and Naledi Pandor (66), the minister of higher education.
The two are by far the most senior members of the present executive and are of impeccable standing in the ANC.
But they will make very different leaders.
Dlamini-Zuma is the better known among the public due to her prominent career in government and her campaign to become ANC president in 2017.
A cabinet minister since 1994, she has held cabinet positions in health, foreign affairs, home affairs and most recently in the presidency.
She also served as the African Union’s chair from 2012 to 2017.
Dlamini-Zuma, a medical doctor by training, has a record of mostly good performance in government.
In health and home affairs many even felt she excelled, taking the initiative and solving a number of problems.
She achieved less in foreign affairs, where then president Thabo Mbeki – a close friend of hers from student days – liked to keep his own hand on the tiller.
Re-entering the government again in February 2018, after five years of chairing the AU, Dlamini-Zuma has again won the high regard of those she works with.
As minister in the presidency, she was responsible for the national planning commission and has been universally described as a person who listens and pays close attention to detail.
One of her most outstanding achievements over the past year has been the establishment of the Public Private Growth Initiative, which has drawn industry leaders from a range of sectors into direct co-operation with the government to foster growth.
She is almost scandal-free. Back in 1995, Dlamini-Zuma was involved in the democratic government’s first corruption scandal: the extravagance involved in a musical production with donor money meant to popularise the message about Aids. Perhaps because of the early warning, Dlamini-Zuma has never since been tainted by scandal.
It was therefore something of a surprise that she returned home from her stint in Addis Ababa in 2017 to make a run for the ANC presidency, in a campaign led by dubious and opportunistic characters aligned to the previous president (and her former husband) Jacob Zuma, advocating a message of defeating white monopoly capitalism.
Dlamini-Zuma has never been charismatic; and she has never liked the public spotlight or the media.
She seldom grants interviews and sees no reason to exchange pleasantries with journalists or opposition politicians.
Her demeanour makes clear that her duty is first to the ANC and then to the country.
Because she is so steeped in the movement, and its traditions and ways of doing things, Dlamini-Zuma is not a forward-thinking reformer.
Rather, she can be described as deeply committed to the mission of liberating SA and firm in the belief that drawing on the ANC traditions and practices will deliver the solutions.
Pandor’s demeanour and public persona are vastly different. Also someone who grew up in the ANC, she went into exile with her activist parents as a child, picking up along the way a posh English accent and an impressive academic record. Her most recent degree was conferred in April when she graduated with a PhD in education at the University of Pretoria. She has a Master’s in education policy and another in linguistics.
Pandor’s big passion is education and she was appointed minister of education in 2004 and 2009. She drew on wide expertise from the universities and outside the department to re-establish the basic principles of education.
She was driven by the need to improve quality rather than the exam results or numbers of enrolments that had motivated her predecessors.
For the past year, she has been back in the department of higher education and has done two stints as minister of science and technology.Pandor is known for excellent leadership and managerial skills, and her success in reforming government departments is unparalleled.In stark contrast to Dlamini-Zuma, who is inherently conservative, Pandor is forward-looking and reads and engages widely in the world, especially in the intellectual arena.She is often hauled out by the ANC when it needs a credible or senior figure to deliberate on a controversy or dispute.At the ANC Nasrec conference in 2017, when Ramaphosa made his bid for the presidency, Pandor was the No 2 on his slate and would have become deputy president of the ANC if the Ramaphosa group had held the wherewithal to win without the support of Mabuza and his province.As going it alone would have meant defeat, Ramaphosa dropped Pandor in favour of Mabuza and together they managed to carry the day.Now Mabuza is back on the bench for reasons which are not yet clear and Ramaphosa has a new choice to make.Fortunately, among the choices there are two very capable women to choose from...