17 July 2012

Africa: How Nkosazana Got AU Top Post

Addis Ababa — A PROLONGED three-month SADC-initiated and Tanzania-inspired 'super campaign,' the then incumbent's weaknesses and several other factors helped South African Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma win the race for the post of Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission here on Sunday, it has been learnt.

"We had literally been all over Africa to campaign for Ms Dlamini-Zuma," Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Bernard Membe, who expressed Tanzania's joy over the victory, told Tanzanian journalists here on Monday.Outlining the factors behind Ms Dlamini-Zuma's triumph, Mr Membe said after the deadlocked such poll in January, the 14-state Southern African Development Community (SADC) mapped out a strategy to ensure a Southern African gets the post this time around.

He pointed out that the strategy was mapped following a postmortem that SADC conducted to assess the deadlock, the overriding factor borne out of the reality that no Southern African has never held the post since the continental body's formation."Noting that we were only 14, we had to go outside the bloc to court the support of other African countries. We did not have a proper strategy in January," the minister, who expressed Tanzania's joy at the victory said.

He explained that to achieve their objective, four zonal groups were formed namely Eastern Africa (led by Tanzania), Northern Africa or Maghreb, led by South Africa, West Africa, led by Angola and Central Africa, led by Zimbabwe.Each delegation had three ministers, led by a foreign minister from each zone and two other SADC ministers, terms of reference being that Southern Africa has never held the continental body's leadership for 49 years in addition to trying to vie for the post twice, in 2000 and 2004 with Namibia and Zambia fielding candidates.

Mr Membe said it was funny to note that when Angola and Zambia candidatures were touted, it was submitted that the two Southern African nations were 'too small and thus unfit' to lead the continental body. "When we later presented South Africa for the post, there was opposition to the effect that the country was 'too big and thus unfit.'

"This led Southern Africa to wonder who then did they want to lead the organisation," the minister quipped.Another term of reference was the dissatisfaction over a host of weaknesses shown by Dr Ping.Giving examples, Mr Membe implied that Dr Ping was discriminative, pointing to the January Summit when he declined to call a minute's silence in memory of Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi and a Guinea Bissau president but called the Summit to observe a minute's silence in memory of former Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika and former Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella.

Also, Dr Ping, whose absence at the ongoing Summit here on Monday was conspicuous, with news circulating here that he had been taken ill, mismanaged the Libyan issue and the entire west-led process that led to the assassination of Gaddafi.

Mr Membe also talked about change of alliances during the vote in which 'undecided' or previously pro-Ping countries were 'blown with the wind' as the first round vote went in favour of Ms Dlamini-Zuma.

The minister cracked a 'true joke' that all SADC heads of state and government failed to get any sleep during the entire electoral process this time around here as they campaigned for their candidate's victory.Further given the election of eight AU commissioners, some countries that have fielded candidates thought it wise to back the SADC candidate once Ms Dlamini-Zuma clinched the first round of the vote.

Earlier South African International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane described her compatriot's victory as a 'victory for Africa and Southern Africa and women of Africa.' She said it is good that African unity prevailed at last. She hailed efforts made by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete to ensure Ms Dlamini-Zuma's victory.

The election seemingly took the form of a Francophone and Anglophone Africa and zonal - Southern, Northern and Eastern and Western tug-of-war.Ms Dlamini-Zuma has already pledged to continue preserving African unity, describing herself as not being Anglophone but a Zulu.

Dlamini-Zuma, 63, who is South Africa's Home Affairs Minister and former freedom fighter, scored a double by being the first Southern African and first woman to hold the highly influential and prestigious post since the AU was established in 2000, taking over from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) that was formed in 1963.

A former wife of President Jacob Zuma, who played a vital role in campaigning for her and former foreign minister of her country for a decade, Dlamini-Zuma led in all four rounds that decided the election. The winner is required to win by over 60 per cent of the vote.

When the count for the final balloting was read, she had scooped 37 votes from among 51 countries, two of which said 'no.' Twelve (12) votes were spoilt. The first such ballot was deadlocked in January after neither candidate failed to secure the required two-thirds majority, forcing the continental body to defer the vote, extending Dr Ping's tenure at the helm of the continental body.

"It means a lot for Africa, for the continent, unity and the empowerment of women, very important," South African President Jacob Zuma told reporters immediately after the vote. The two had divorced in 1998.Dlamini-Zuma, branded as South Africa's 'Iron Lady and a medical doctor by profession, is an experienced politician and administrator, having served in all cabinets since the fall of apartheid that catapulted Nelson Mandela from a jail room to the presidency in 1994.

First Round; Zuma (27), Ping (24); Second round, Zuma (29), Ping (22); Third round, Zuma (33), Ping (18); Fourth round, Zuma (37).

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