Polokwane moment ahead of AU summit

2012-01-21 18:10

Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will go on a blitzkrieg this week with her lobbying team to consolidate support for her bid to become the chairperson of the African Union (AU) commission.

Dlamini-Zuma, who this week formally announced her candidacy for the position, is pitted against incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon.

Her South African lobbying team believes she will win the day based on the raw deal the AU got in the past year from the global community.

The AU was ignored in the quest to find a solution to the Libyan crisis.

A South African official told City Press that the lobbying team is telling countries: “If you don’t vote for her (Dlamini-Zuma), don’t come crying to us if Libya happens again.”

Voting takes place at the AU summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on January 30.

Dlamini-Zuma and her team – which consists of several ministers, presidential advisers and senior diplomats – will embark on a whirlwind tour of the continent today on the way to Addis Ababa.

In a style reminiscent of the lobbying done before the ANC’s elective conference in Polokwane in 2007, the South Africans are telling countries to agree publicly to vote against Dlamini-Zuma, but in the secret ballot put their cross next to her name.

This strategy, they expect, will put the other side at ease and make them think Ping has the election in the bag.

Dlamini-Zuma’s other rallying point is that if the AU countries want Africa to be taken seriously, the AU needs to be strengthened.

And with her extensive experience after 10 years as foreign minister, they believe she is the right woman for the job.

The role of France in the lobbying process is being highlighted by her South African team, which claims France has an interest in securing a second five-year term for Ping.

Ping is considered to be more sympathetic to French investors in Africa.

South African officials said France had, on a visit by its foreign minister Alain Juppe, asked South Africa to support Ping to “consolidate the foundation he has laid”.

French diplomats vehemently denied that their country was involved in the lobbying or had any preference for who led the AU.

Said one: “It would work against our interests to lobby for one candidate because if he or she did not win, how do we work with the new chairperson?”

Other European diplomats say the South Africans are setting up France as the bogeyman to blame if they don’t win the elections.

“Their candidacy is running into trouble because they hit resistance in West Africa so now they want to create the image of a mean colonial France to blame if their candidate doesn’t make it.”

AU chairperson and Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema seems to be playing a double game, officials say. Although he pledged his support to the South Africans, he paid a surprise visit to President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and King Mswati III of Swaziland last week to lobby for Ping.

Properties owned by Nguema and his son in France are the subject of a special inquest in Paris and although 11 supercars owned by Nguema Jnr have been seized by the French authorities, no arrests have been made.

This gave rise to speculation that Nguema, who won his presidential election by 99%, may have entered into an agreement with the French authorities to protect French interests in Africa in return for judicial mercy.

Observers say this informed his sudden visits to Zimbabwe and Swaziland to leverage his country’s oil interests in return for support.

According to South African officials, the only countries that rejected Dlamini-Zuma outright were Cameroon, Ethiopia and Gabon.

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