Frantic lobbying to secure AU post for Dlamini-Zuma
SOUTH Africa is involved in last-minute lobbying to ensure the election of Minister of Home Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the first female chairman of the African Union Commission.
However, she faces stiff competition from current chairman Jean Ping of Gabon, who is standing for re-election.
While Pretoria's lobbying team, led by Minister of International Relations Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, has been crisscrossing the continent to garner support for Dlamini-Zuma's candidature, there is still resistance from Francophone countries, from which Ping draws most of his support.
South Africa's continental rival, Nigeria, is also not supporting Dlamini-Zuma, as are Ivory Coast and Gabon.
Ping also enjoys support among Arab countries in North Africa.
But the entire Southern African Development Community (SADC) has thrown its weight behind her.
It has been learnt that South Africa, which officially announced Dlamini-Zuma's candidature last week, is still hoping to avoid a contest between her and Ping.
An insider told the Sunday Times that the feeling in Pretoria was that a contest would lay bare divisions in the AU and cement perceptions in the West that the continent does not speak with one voice.
The same point was made by the US permanent representative to the UN, Susan Rice, who said that while the AU sometimes felt undermined by the West and the UN Security Council, the feeling among some council members was that the continent was sometimes slow to react to matters of conflict resolution, as it did not speak with one voice.
President Jacob Zuma also expressed his frustration with the AU, telling the Sunday Times on the sidelines of the UN summit in New York, that the organisation's slow reaction at times was partly due to some member states still being largely influenced by powerful countries outside the continent.
"We should not lose sight of the fact that interference in Africa in different ways still causes problems ... and that contributes to the hesitance of the countries to take whatever decisions are needed by the AU to function," said Zuma.
South Africa believes that the AU Commission is weak under Ping and that Dlamini-Zuma, a seasoned diplomat, would overhaul it.
Announcing Dlamini-Zuma's candidature, Nkoana-Mashabane described the home affairs minister as a visionary leader "with an incredible passion for the African continent".
She is well known in the diplomatic world, having served two five-year terms as foreign affairs minister under former president Thabo Mbeki.
The AU summit begins in Addis Ababa tomorrow and the election is expected to take place later in the week.