South Africa: Ambassador Mandela: icon's daughter to woo Argentina
Another Mandela is set to enter the public eye in South Africa as the daughter of the country's anti-apartheid icon and first black president is chosen as ambassador to Argentina.
Zenani Mandela-Dlamini, 53, is also a Swazi princess and will use her pedigree to foster deeper ties with emerging Latin American economies, one of the priorities of South African diplomacy, experts said.
Her appointment has not yet been made official in South Africa but her niece Ndelani Mandela told AFP Thursday that she had informed the family and was due to take up the position in Buenos Aires "somewhere in September".
Known as "Zeni" by her family, Mandela-Dlamini has built a career in business and is expected to use that experience to boost trade between South Africa and Argentina, currently pegged at $1.3 billion a year.
She is the eldest of the 93-year-old Mandela's three surviving children and the first of two daughters he had Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Zenani has little formal experience in politics besides occasionally representing her father at some events of his African National Congress party.
At Mandela's historic inauguration in 1994, she stood next to her father dressed in a chic red jacket and a black formal hat -- a taste for striking sartorial statements she inherited from Winnie.
Part of the Xhosa royal family through her father, Mandela-Dlamini is also a Swazi princess through her marriage to Prince Thumbumuzi Dlamini of Swaziland, who is a son of late King Sobhuza II and brother to current King Mswati III. The two are now divorced.
She was born in Soweto in 1959, three months after her mother was imprisoned for two weeks with 2,000 other women for protesting against laws that forced non-whites to carry in-country passes under white minority rule.
Her posting is a compliment to Argentina, according to Tom Wheeler, a former South African ambassador and the foreign service's former chief director for Latin America.
"Presumably Argentina will be quite flattered to have a Mandela on the diplomatic list."
The country is also a key ally in Latin America, said Wheeler, who is a researcher with the South African Institute for International Affairs think tank.
"There are issues in common. We're southern hemisphere, emerging economy, all those things, and it becomes an important country, probably the second most important country in Latin America."
The last two diplomats had worked on some trade deals. "I think the new ambassador will continue along those lines and move the relation forward."
Brazil however stays the paramount ally in the region.
The family decided to name her Zenani, Mandela wrote in his autobiography, "which means 'what have you brought to the world?' - a poetic name that embodies a challenge, suggesting that one must contribute something to society."
Her father was imprisoned when she was six. They would only touch each other again 10 years later.
She was schooled in South Africa, Swaziland and the United States, where she studied science at Boston University. She lived in the United States from 1982 to 1990 with her family.
The businesswoman heads several communications, entertainment and consultancy outfits.
Local media have criticised Mandela-Dlamini's appointment as "political cadre deployment" by the ANC government -- giving key positions to party loyalists.
"As an ex-career diplomat myself I regard it as a bad thing, because career diplomats who have devoted their lives to their career and towards serving their country are being denied opportunities of being promoted to ambassadors."
Mandela-Dlamini will replace Tony Leon, who reportedly requested an early end to his four-year term that started in 2009. Leon had been a political appointment too, having headed South Africa's opposition Democratic Alliance.
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