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It is the 80th birthday celebration of deputy international relations minister Ebrahim Ebrahim, and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma — a lone, uncharismatic figure — is sitting at a table at the front of the swish Melrose Arch venue, surrounded by aides. The table to her right seats ex-president Kgalema Motlanthe, stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and the Ebrahim family. At the table to her left is ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize, who addresses the event on behalf of the party. But it is clear the 68-year-old Dlamini-Zuma is on her own as she departs the gathering, turning on journalists who approach her for comment by saying it is a “private function” and that she won’t answer questions — especially not about her candidacy to succeed her ex-husband Jacob Zuma as president. And for all their confidence in her, Dlamini-Zuma’s backers are well aware of the harm that the rolling scandals attached to Zuma could do to her campaign. This is why, among the first interviews she gave, was an angui...

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