Balancing the AU books

2012-07-21 17:46

Dlamini-Zuma will have to hit the ground running after securing top job

The first thing Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will have to do when she becomes the official head of the African Union (AU) Commission is to fill its massive new headquarters.

The organisation in charge of a continent plagued with problems has a 40% vacancy rate, which South African diplomats believe causes the organisation to underspend its budget by 37%.

“Her first point of business will be to clean up that place,” a South African government official told City Press this week.

Diplomats employed at the AU complain that the organisation is riddled with operational problems, mostly because the officials appointed to it did not earn their jobs on merit.

In Addis Ababa, AU officials say, some in top jobs are sent there by their home countries because they were politically problematic at home.
 
But Dlamini-Zuma insists that those days are over.

She plans to do the same as she did at Home Affairs – to rid the place of the corrupt and the lazy.

It was an anxious group of diplomats that left Pretoria early last week for the AU meeting.

Since January, South Africa had been focusing on a campaign to get Dlamini-Zuma elected but had not made much progress.

Even within the Southern African Development Community (SADC), South Africa did not trust all its partners.

“There were rumours that former Mozambique president Joachim Chissano would step in as a compromise candidate if Dlamini-Zuma lost.

And from the Mozambicans’ attitude, we could see they liked the idea,” one of the lobbyists told City Press.

But when they got to Addis Ababa, the picture began to look rosier, thanks to the many elections held on the continent in the past six months.

New leaders were elected in Senegal, Libya and Egypt, and all favoured Dlamini-Zuma over the incumbent, Jean Ping.

Egyptian Prime Minister Dr Kamal Al-Ganzoury apparently went straight from the Addis Ababa airport to a meeting with President Jacob Zuma, which the Egyptian had requested to discuss the election.

More important, however, were the absentees: Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

At the failed January election that returned Ping to the post, the two made it clear that they opposed Dlamini-Zuma as chairperson.

But Zenawi is in hospital in Brussels while Jonathan was stuck at home, forced to respond to criticism that he spent more time at the AU than he did at home solving Nigeria’s own problems.

Mali and Guinea-Bissau, sure votes for Ping, were absent due to coups that cost them their AU membership.

“Chad actively helped to convince other countries of our viewpoint,” an amused South African government official revealed.

Did the millions of rands South Africa gave Chad in aid this year have anything to do with it?

“It probably didn’t do any harm,” was the diplomatic response.

The votes of North African nations also helped win the election for Dlamini-Zuma.

South Africa’s support of the rotational principle – that every AU region should have an opportunity to manage the Commission – means that North Africa will be next in line.

They will thus be able to rely on SADC support when their time comes.

But on Sunday, anxious SADC representatives tried to dampen their expectations. An SMS home from a South African diplomat that afternoon read: “SADC leaders all say they will accept the result of the election and cooperate with the Commission.”

But there was no need.

The first count showed Dlamini-Zuma two votes ahead of Ping – 27 to his 25 – thanks to what local officials believe were the ballots of Senegal and Egypt. Over the following two rounds she drummed up 37 votes, more than she needed to win.

Now she needs to mend relations with Nigeria and unite a continent her election has in part divided.

Her aides say many trips to West Africa are on the cards.

It was an anxious group of diplomats which left Pretoria early last week for the AU meeting.

Since January, South Africa had been focusing on a campaign to get Dlamini-Zuma elected but had not made much progress.

Even within the Southern African Development Community (SADC ), South Africa did not trust all its partners.

“There were rumours that former Mozambique President Joachim Chissano would step in as a compromise candidate if Dlamini-Zuma lost.

And by the Mozambicans’ attitude we could see they liked the idea,” one of the lobbyists told City Press.

But when they got to Addis Ababa, the picture began looking rosier - thanks to the many elections held on the continent in the past six months.

New leaders were elected in Senegal, Libya and Egypt, and all favoured Dlamini-Zuma over the incumbant Jean Ping.

Egyptian Prime Minister Dr Kamal Al-Ganzoury apparently went straight from the Addis Ababa airport to a meeting with president Jacob Zuma which the Egyptian had requested to discuss the election.

More important, however, were the absentees: Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

At the failed January election which returned Ping to the post, the two made it clear that they opposed Dlamini-Zuma as chairperson.

But Zenawi is in hospital in Brussels while Jonathan was stuck at home, forced to respond to criticism that he spent more time at the AU than solving Nigeria’s own problems.

Mali and Guinea-Bissau, sure votes for Ping, were absent due to coups which cost them their AU membership.

“Chad helped actively to convince other countries of our viewpoint,” an amused South African government official revealed.

Did the millions of rands South Africa gave Chad in aid this year have anything to do with that?

“It probably didn’t do any harm,” was the diplomatic reply.

The votes of North African nations helped win it for Dlamini-Zuma.

South Africa’s support of the rotational principle – that every AU region should have an opportunity to manage the Commission – means that North Africa will be next in line.

They will also be able to rely on SADC support when their time comes.

But on Sunday, anxious SADC representatives tried to dampen their expectations.

An SMS home from a South African diplomat that afternoon read: “SADC leaders all say they will accept the result of the election and co-operate with the Commission”.

But there was no need.

The first count showed Dlamini-Zuma two votes ahead of Ping – 27 to his 25 - thanks to what local officials believe were the ballots of Senegal and Egypt. Over the following two rounds she drummed up 37 votes, more than she needed to win.

Now she needs to mend relations with Nigeria and unite a continent her election has divided.

Her aides say many trips to West Africa are on the cards.


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