Mrs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, estranged wife of South African President, has assumed one of the two front runners for the presidency.
The 68-year-old is vying to succeed her ex-husband, President Jacob Zuma, as leader of the ruling African National Congress at a party vote this weekend.
She is a fierce campaigner against racial inequality whose hostility to big business has rattled investors in South Africa.
She is also one of two front runners to be the country’s next president.
Her success as leader of the party would make her favourite for the presidency after a parliamentary election due in 2019.
A medical doctor and former chair of the Commission of the African Union, a pan-continental grouping, Dlamini-Zuma has pledged during her campaign to “radically” tackle the racial inequality that persists in South Africa 23 years after the end of white minority rule.
Backers of her main rival, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, say she is peddling populist rhetoric and would rule in the mould of her former husband.
Her former husband decade in power has been plagued by corruption scandals. Dlamini-Zuma declined to be interviewed for this story.
The choice between Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa will influence South Africa’s economic policy trajectory, as well the country’s role in Africa and beyond.
Investors are worried by Dlamini-Zuma’s hostility towards international companies, which she says form part of a “white monopoly capital” cabal dominating South Africa’s wealth.
“A Dlamini-Zuma victory would signal a sharp rhetorical shift towards more leftist economic policy,” said John Ashbourne, an Africa-focused economist at Capital Economics. “A further credit ratings downgrade would be almost inevitable.”
Yet Dlamini-Zuma’s supporters point to a commitment to changing the lives of South Africa’s black majority.
Lynne Jones, a psychiatrist and author who lived with Dlamini-Zuma when they were students together in the English city of Bristol in the 1970s, says her determination to fight injustice is rooted in her own personal story.
Jones remembers a day four decades ago when Dlamini-Zuma lay on her bed and wept after being forced to miss her brother’s funeral because the apartheid-era security services had hounded her out of South Africa.
“She was fiercely intelligent and determined,” said Jones.
“Here was someone who had put their whole life on the line and given up home and family for what they believed. It was eye-opening.”
Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini married Jacob Zuma, with whom she has four children: Msholozi (born 1982); Gugulethu Zuma-Ncube (born 1985), who married the son of Zimbabwean politician and President of the MDC, Welshman Ncube; “Thuli” Nokuthula Nomaqhawe (born 1987); and their youngest daughter, Thuthukile Zuma, who was appointed Chief of Staff of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services in 2014.
Dlamini, Zuma’s third wife, divorced him in June 1998.