President Zuma may maintain his political clout when he leaves office if his ex-wife and mother of four of his children, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, succeeds him.

She’s being guarded by the presidential protection unit even though she an ordinary citizen.

Her bid to lead the ANC has been openly backed by key Zuma allies, including the party’s women’s league and its youth wing in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.

“If she wins, then Jacob Zuma will call the shots from behind the scenes,” Mcebisi Ndletyana, a political science professor at the University of Johannesburg, said.

Pres. Zuma, a former intelligence operative who’s been implicated in a series of scandals, may need a pardon from his successor to avoid being jailed for 783 graft charges that were dropped just weeks before he became president in 2009, according to Ndletyana.

While Dlamini-Zuma has strong leadership credentials, her failure to speak up about the pervasive corruption under the Zuma administration has tainted her image and campaign, said Nomboniso Gasa,an independent political analyst.

“It is difficult to separate her from everything that is wrong about Zuma,” Gasa said. “Her messages are very similar to those of Zuma. It is very clear that she is not going to come with a different vision. Zuma’s legacy is going to continue.”

Dlamini-Zuma, 68, and her children have a house in the president’s private homestead in the KwaZulu-Natal village of Nkandla and she has been a regular visitor there.

Dlamini-Zuma has refused to answer questions as to why she’s been allocated state cars and bodyguards normally reserved for serving or retired heads of state, or spell out what radical economic transformation should entail.

She comes across as arrogant and lacking in charisma,said Theo Venter, a political analyst at North West University’s business school in Potchefstroom, west of Johannesburg.

“There are some serious misgivings around whether she is a good candidate,” Venter said. “If you are an opposition party, you can only hope that she makes it because when it gets to 2019 everything that is happening this year will be painted on her and she will have a horrible time in defending the ANC.”

Five political analysts surveyed by FirstRand Ltd.’s Rand Merchant Bank said Zuma’s continued presence in office and the possibility that Dlamini-Zuma may succeed him could place the ANC at risk of losing its majority in the 2019 elections, the Johannesburg-based lender said in a report.

“Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s victory would send a negative signal, if only because of the trust deficit that Zuma has created,” said Anne Fruhauf, vice president at New York-based risk adviser Teneo Intelligence. “She may well develop her own agenda over time but she might find it difficult to make marked departures from Zuma’s policies, including the nuclear program, if she owes her political victory primarily to the president’s backers.”