SA pushes bid for AU Commission chair


The South African government has expressed optimism that Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma will be elected to lead the African Union (AU) Commission. The campaign has received backing from several countries that share Pretoria’s view that the AU needs to be strengthened.

The minister is up against current chair and Gabonese diplomat Jean Ping. His first four-year term comes to an end this year, the state BuaNews agency says. International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said yesterday that should Dlamini Zuma take up the position, it would not only increase South Africa’s diplomatic stature but also assist with efforts to make the AU an effective institution.

The union has come under fire recently for how it dealt with the Libya, Egypt and Cote d’ Ivore crises. Dlamini Zuma, who filled the Foreign Affairs portfolio for several years, was nominated by the 15-member SADC in August to campaign for the chairmanship. The election of Dlamini Zuma would bring a much needed breath of fresh air to the male dominated institution.

While acknowledging Ping’s contribution, Nkoana-Mashabane said the AU’s focus must turn to the development of the African continent, including fighting and reducing poverty, eradicating conflicts, building sustainable economies and the integration of Regional Economic Communities and advancing Africa’s interests in the world.

Dlamini Zuma’s time at Home affairs has proven that she is more than capable of turning around an administration. “She is a high-calibre cadre with experience on the African continent,” said Nkoana-Mashabane, who was flanked by ministers from the Justice and Security Cluster. Ministers present included Ministers of State Security Siyabonga Cwele, Justice and Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe and Correctional Services Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. The minister, including Nkoana-Mashabane, form part of the lobby team.

Dlamini Zuma said if elected, she would serve with the same passion she has in all her previous positions. “What motivates me and continues to do so is my conviction that Africa’s time is now – not tomorrow.” She said Africa should become the custodian of its own destiny. “We must commit to deal with Afro-pessimism. We must dismiss the negative utterances of our detractors, as a collective and through or struggles and resilient actions.”

The election won’t be smooth sailing, however, as reports suggest that Ping has the backing of French-speaking Central and West African nations for a second and final term, BuaNews said. Nkoana-Mashabane affirmed that South Africa has support as they have lobbied every country. The AU’s 54th Heads of State and Government meeting will hold a secret ballot at a summit in Addis Ababa at the end of this month.

Nkoana-Mashabane’s shadow at the opposition Democratic Alliance party, Kenneth Mubu, said he hoped that should Dlamini Zuma succeed in being appointed she would use the position “speak out when elections in Africa do not deliver true democracy.” Mubu says the AU’s recent endorsement of a seriously flawed election in the Democratic Republic of Congo should not set the tone for African democracies in which the will of the people is habitually repressed or ignored.

He added that the AU needed to take the lead in promoting human rights in Africa and condemning leaders who violate such rights. “Africa’s regional authorities cannot, for example, remain silent on the denial of basic rights and freedoms based on sexual orientation in countries like Uganda and Nigeria.”

The DA MP continued that the alignment of the AU and international bodies such as the United Nations (UN) also needs to be addressed. “Most AU countries are UN members and bound by the resolutions of the UN Security Council. The AU position on issues of international importance should be discussed and determined before African representatives cast their vote in UN bodies. Flip-flops in positions (like that of South Africa on the UN’s response to the crisis in Libya) undermine the credibility of African countries in international debate.”