SADC backs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma again

2012-02-12 21:46

Cape Town - Southern African countries have vowed to lobby hard for South Africa's Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who on Sunday was again backed as the region's candidate for African Union chief after a recent polls deadlock.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) reiterated its support for the ex-foreign minister in a two-day meeting called to plot the strategy for new elections after she failed to unseat Gabon's Jean Ping as AU commission chair.

"SADC remains committed and united to its candidate for the chairperson of the AU Commission," read a post-meeting statement from the 15-member bloc on Sunday.

"SADC urges the AU Assembly to conclude the electoral process for the AUC chairperson as a matter of urgency," it added.

The tightly contested AU race nearly two weeks ago saw Ping, who has headed the AU's executive arm since 2008, unable to obtain the required two-thirds majority of African leaders' votes in a tight race with Dlamini-Zuma.

Angolan Foreign Minister Rebelo Pinto Chikoti told a gala dinner on Saturday the region would throw its weight behind the South African.

"It's going to be a campaign of all SADC member states and we are going to work and convince others with all the strong arguments that we have," he said.

"All other regions have had this position, and through democratic processes, and we have worked with them so what we ask them this time is for them to allow us this chance."

French vs English

Chikoti said it was southern Africa's turn to have the AU's top post, but that the tightly contested race - seen as exposing divides between geographical regions and French- and English-speaking Africa - was not a rivalry.

"We are not doing this as a fight against anybody, we are not making a fight against people or even against our dear partners," he said.

Dlamini-Zuma was the first woman to be proposed by SADC as an AU head and Chikoti praised her leadership, saying the bloc believed it had a "very good candidate".

Last month's tightly contested AU race saw Ping, who has headed the AU's executive arm since 2008, unable to muster the required votes in a tight race with Dlamini-Zuma.

SADC on Sunday said it was committed to the AU's two-thirds majority rule and called for a committee of eight heads of state and government, tasked by the AU to address the way forward after the stalemate, to "meet urgently".

The AU has extended Ping's mandate until its next summit, scheduled for June in Malawi.

The vote was preceded by intense campaigns, with Ping counting on support from French-speaking West and Central African countries, and Pretoria lobbying across Africa for Dlamini-Zuma.