Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma

Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is an undisputed trailblazer in the upliftment and empowerment of women across the African continent. Dlamini Zuma was elected chairperson of the African Union Commission by the heads of state in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2012. She is the first woman to lead the continental organisation, including its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity.

A medical doctor by profession, Dlamini Zuma has been in the trenches fighting for the liberation of South Africa. She has also championed African development and women empowerment in her illustrious career of serving people.

When South Africa achieved its independence in 1994, she served in President Nelson Mandela’s Cabinet as minister of health, a position she held until 1999. As minister of health, Dlamini Zuma led the process of building a non-racial health system and initiating radical health reforms. Among her major achievements during this period were access for all to basic healthcare, reproductive rights of women and a ban on smoking in public spaces.

In 1999, Dlamini Zuma was appointed minister of foreign affairs. She held this portfolio until 2009. She championed South Africa’s foreign policy on the promotion of human rights, multilateralism, peace and collective development, and the African renaissance.

As minister of foreign Affairs, she chaired the 2001 World Conference Against Racism. She has worked tirelessly for African peace and stability, especially in Burundi, Comoros and the Democratic Republic of Congo. She was also instrumental in the launch of the African Union in Durban in 2002.

In 2009, she was appointed minister of home (interior) affairs, a position she held until 2012, when she was elected as the chairperson of the African Union Commission. Her work in the African Union Commission focuses on a continental drive to ensure an Africa that is prosperous, integrated and peaceful. She is the founding chairperson of the Council of the African Union Foundation, which is aimed at mobilising resources for the African Union and promoting its programmes.

Dlamini Zuma is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards. These include:

  • The Maitre de l’Ordre Nat. of the Republic of Mali (2002)
  • The National Order of Luthuli in Gold from the Republic of South Africa (2013)
  • Le Grand-Officier de l’Ordre National du Bénin (2014)
  • Honorary doctorates from the University of Natal (1995); University of Bristol (1996); University of Transkei (1997); University of Rome (2013); and University of Fort Hare (2014)
  • Honorary Professor of the Belarusian State University – 2007