Dlamini-Zuma Ready to Lead the African Union

African Union
Zuma and Ping both vying for the AU’s top job

South African Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who will be vying for the position of African Union (AU) Commission chairperson next week, says she is ready to take up the post and thinks a change is needed within the African bloc.

“We want to try to make the AU more efficient as an organisation,” Dlamini-Zuma said at a business briefing on Friday morning. “If you are working as the chair of the African Union Commission, it is not difficult to unite the countries. It’s not a difficult thing once you are there.”

African leaders will vote for the new AU Commission chairperson when they meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the 19th Ordinary Session of the Summit of the African Union, scheduled for July 17.

Dlamini-Zuma will contest the position with incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon. A vote was deferred in January when neither was able to secure the required two-thirds majority.

Asked what the position would mean for South Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should she win, Dlamini-Zuma said that while it would not have direct impact on the country, having a South African leading the AU Commission could further strengthen the country’s position on the continent.

“We are hoping that as we go there, South Africans will support us,” Dlamini-Zuma said. “Once you are at the helm at the AU, you will be serving the African continent, not South Africa or southern Africa.

“I don’t think it will have a direct impact, but it will definitely change the AU, and hopefully South Africa will give us support if we win,” she said.

Buoyed by the support it has received from SADC countries, South Africa is confident that one of its longest-serving ministers will emerge victorious in Addis Ababa next week. Ministers from SADC countries met in Tshwane last week to further strengthen South Africa’s case as the lobbying intensified.

SADC ministers have also been crisscrossing the continent trying to garner support for South Africa.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has said that the SADC believes that, in keeping with the rotational principle, all regions should be given an opportunity to lead the AU Commission.

Since the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the AU’s predecessor, the southern and the northern regions have not had an opportunity to lead the AU at the level of chairperson.

The OAU/AU has also not had a woman leader in its 49 years, in spite of its 2010 declaration of the African Women’s Decade.