Crucial vote at the AU
Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma arrived in the capital of Ethiopia yesterday, where a vote this week by African leaders will determine if she becomes the first woman to lead the African Union C ommission, the executive arm of the continental body .
Dlamini-Zuma, one of the longest-serving cabinet ministers, since 1994, is up against Gabon's Jean Ping, who has occupied the all-important position of chairman since 2008.
The vote on Sunday is expected to be a bruising contest because the candidate must get a two-thirds majority to win.
Ping vowed this week that he would not back down, despite rumours that he intended to withdraw.
Dlamini-Zuma sought to unseat Ping in a vote that ended in a stalemate in January.
The chairmanship of the African Union Commission is a key position within the AU because it determines the effectiveness of the bloc and its ability to maintain stability on the continent - crucial for attracting foreign investment.
Since its inception in 2003, the AU has made remarkable progress in the development of the continent. Observers say the body now needs strong leadership to continue building on the gains of the past decade.
If Dlamini-Zuma is elected, it might not only be a boost for the continent, but will help South Africa gain more influence as it increasingly represents Africa on international platforms such as the G20, the UN Security Council and Bricsa.
The continent is transforming, with talks of regional integration and intra-Africa trade gaining momentum each day.
With her experience in government and supervision, many believe Dlamini-Zuma might be just the candidate the AU needs to get the job done.
The government this week reiterated its support for her candidacy, saying "she possesses both the capacity and the will to help the continent in its endeavours to create a better life for all Africans".
Despite the underlying complex political calculus that tends to characterise African politics, commentators say Dlamini-Zuma, buoyed by the unequivocal support of the Southern African Development Community, could emerge victorious come July 15.
Her chances could also be boosted by the AU policy of alternating senior positions between men and women. South Africa has argued that this policy has not been enforced in respect of the chairmanship of the commission.
International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane recently told her Southern African Development Community counterparts that the region was in a position to field a formidable candidate who met all the requirements.
Chairma n of the executive council of the AU Nassiru Bako Arifari yesterday urged the union's leadership to ensure that the issue of leadership was "put to rest".
Arifari added that a leaderless AU Commission risked undermining the credibility of the continent.
"Our continent is faced with serious conflicts that need our attention and the effectiveness of the union, and the past six months have not been easy...
"In the face of all of this, we have a responsibility to maintain peace and stability on the continent," Arifari said.
Opening the executive council meeting, which is attended by foreign ministers of the AU member states, Arifari said the bloc was concerned about the unresolved political situations in Mali, Somalia and Western Sahara, and by the latest conflict between Sudan and South Sudan.
"The union is determined to solve the Malian crisis and the situation in Sudan and South Sudann and in the face of all this we shall remain focused to offer solutions to these crises."
South Sudan, which celebrated its first anniversary as an independent state last week, has been at loggerheads with its neighbour, Sudan, over oil reserves. The second round of the AU-led negotiations between the two countries was adjourned on June 28 after a week of talks in Addis Ababa. - SAnews.gov.za