There was always going to be controversy whomever was given the poisoned chalice by President Mbeki, and it's no different for Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Besides her impressive delivery credentials, I know very little about Mlambo-Ngcuka, save for the obvious impression of her husband's stature. Like Laurence, I blame the press for these omissions.
As was always expected, the left wing of the ANC is livid about the appointment for two reasons. Firstly, they had expected Mbeki to placate them with a deputy that was more lenient on the left wing and trade union membership, whereas Mlambo-Ngcuka is all business. Secondly, and more incendiary for them, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is the wife of former NPA head Bulenani Ngcuka who publicly accused Zuma of corruption in 2003. For those decrying Zuma's arraignment as a "political vendetta", the appointment of its instigator's wife only adds fuel to the fire.
For others, Mlambo-Ngcuka is tainted with a corruption smell as well. There is the brewing Oilgate scandal involving PetroSA, which Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka oversaw during her stint as Minerals and Energy Minister. In this growing scandal, Phumzile's brother Bonga Mlambo is alleged to have been given R50 000 by Imvume.
Personally, I don't think that Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is a natural successor for the presidency in 2009. Mbeki is rewarding cabinet members who have been true to his delivery mantra, and is entrenching a positive gender approach within his presidency. This is an appointment that serves his legacy, as opposed to a future presidential successor.
Nothing like strong support from your mum:
I'm in a state of shock. I can't believe it," said 75-year-old Sabbath Mlambo from her home in New Germany, outside Pinetown in KwaZulu Natal. She worried about the magnitude of her daughter's appointment, noting that Mlambo-Ngcuka had never been regarded as a leader when she was growing up.