FILE PHOTO: ANC women's league president Bathabile Dlamini and Nonqoba Mosunkhutlu.


WITH less than 24 months before the ANC’s elective conference, behind-the-scenes lobbying for the first female presidential candidate has commenced, with the governing party’s women’s league leading the charge.

At 109 years old, the ANC has never had a woman President or Deputy President.

Ahead of the Nasrec elective conference in 2017, many backers of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s candidacy argued that it was time for a female president.

Those who didn’t back Dlamini-Zuma’s candidacy argued that at least the Deputy President should be a woman and backed Lindiwe Sisulu. In the end, neither woman made it into the ANC’s Top Six. Only one woman made it: Jessie Duarte, as the Deputy Secretary General.

Inside Politics looks at thee possible female candidates for the ANC’s top job.

Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.


Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has already made her move, and is understood to be meeting key backers ahead of the conference. Sisulu enjoys the support of former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe. Even former president Jacob Zuma and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma are said to be in support of Sisulu as a suitable candidate for the party and the country’s top position.

Sisulu is one of the longest serving cabinet members.

She served as Intelligence Minister during Thabo Mbeki’s tenure, Public Service and Administration Minister under Zuma and International Relations Minister and Human Settlements Minister under Ramaphosa.

She’s also one of the longest-serving members of the ANC’s national executive committee- the party’s highest decision making body between conferences.

Some ANC leaders have previously criticised her candidacy, saying she shouldn’t feel she was entitled to top positions within the ANC because of her family’s struggle credentials. She is the daughter of ANC veterans, Walter and Albertina Sisulu.

Her supporters in the ANC hav dismissed any any suggestion that she was using her family struggle credentials to ascend the party’s top position,saying her record in both the ANC and government speaks for itself. She is a tried and tested cadre of the movement, they argue.

In 1990, after the unbanning of the ANC and other political organisations, Sisulu returned to South Africa and resumed work as personal assistant to Zuma and thereafter as an administrator in the ANC’s Department of Intelligence and Security. She has worked as chief administrator of the ANC at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) and as a consultant for UNESCO’s Children’s Rights Committee. In 1992 she was awarded the Human Rights Centre fellowship in Geneva. She has published extensively on the subjects of women, the liberation struggle, working conditions and even agriculture.

Sisulu completed her General Certificate of Education (GCE) Cambridge University Ordinary Level at St Michael’s School in Swaziland in 1971, and GCE Cambridge University Advanced Level in 1973, also in Swaziland.

She holds a BA degree, a BA Honours degree in History and a Diploma in Education from the University of Swaziland.
She holds a Master of Arts degree in History from the Centre for Southern African Studies of the University of York and an M Phil also from the Centre for Southern African Studies of the University of York obtained 1989 with the thesis topic: ”Women at Work and the Liberation Struggle in South Africa.”

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.


Angie Motshekga has survived the axe as Basic Education Minister despite a scandal that left learners in Limpopo without textbooks for almost a year.  

However, her performance in within the education sector, which saw the class of 2019 exceeding a historic 80% pass rate, has turned the tables in her favour.

Motshekga, who served as ANC Women’s League president for full two terms, is also a strong candidate for female president and still enjoys support within women’s league structures across the country. Her leadership of the ANC’s women’s league appears to have been enough to save Motshekga’s cabinet career.

In the run up to the Nasrec conference, Motshekga played a pivotal role in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ascendancy to the top office in 2017.

She was initially a vocal supporter of former president Zuma but broke ranks months ahead of the elective conference.

She is still influential in the women’s league structures, especially in Gauteng, Limpopo and KwaZulu Natal.

Motshekga holds a bachelor’s degree in Education. She also completed a master’s degree in Educational from the Witwatersrand University (Wits). She also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in education acquired from the University of the North and a Higher Diploma in Education. After finishing her tertiary education, she became an educator at Orlando High School from 1981 to 1983, a lecturer at the Soweto College of Education from 1983 to 1985 and a lecturer at Witwatersrand (Wits) University from 1985 to 1994.

International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor.


International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor, who was once approached by Ramaphosa to take over as his deputy, could also emerge as a suitable candidate as the first female president of the ANC.

Pandor ticks a number of boxes. She has been widely described as smart, articulate and as a hard-nosed technocrat with a professional manner. She does not appear tainted by any allegations of corruption nor is she close either the Zuma or the Ramaphosa camps. Pandor recently placed Director-General Kgabo Mahoai on precautionary suspension after the division spent R118 million for a bit of land in New York, that didn’t exist.  

Although Pandor has been praised for her performance as a minister and for her personal integrity, she came under strong attack in 2013 while minister of home affairs, when she refused to criticise President Zuma following the so-called Guptagate scandal when the influential family managed to land a private plane carrying hundreds of wedding guests at the Waterkloof Air Force Base, a national key point.

However, speaking in Boksburg in April 2016 on the 23rd anniversary of the death of SACP leader and MK head Chris Hani, Pandor said that Hani would have been appalled by the loss of ethics and the corruption in the ANC.

In March 2017, she further incurred the wrath of ANC leadership when she questioned why the party was not implementing a 2016 NEC decision to audit party leaders’ lifestyles.

Pandor comes from a long line of political activists. ZK Matthews, her grandfather, was an academic and activist. Pandor studied at the University of Botswana, attaining a BA in History and English and later an MA at her father’s alma mater, the University of London. Furthering her studies back in South Africa, Pandor was awarded an MA in Linguistics at Stellenbosch University in 1997.

  • Inside Politics Staff
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