AU: Dlamini-Zuma vs Ping

2012-05-26 15:20

As the contest for the top job heats up, South Africa is given the cold shoulder by most African states

Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma spoke out for the first time this week about the “lies” spread by opponents of South Africa as she and the country bid for the top job at the African Union (AU).

The position of AU commission chairperson is seen as the unofficial prime minister of Africa.

Dlamini-Zuma said incumbent Jean Ping, the former Gabonese foreign minister, who is also standing for re-election, had reneged on a promise not to stand for the position.

“It is only South Africa’s attitude that is being discussed.

“I haven’t seen what is so great about Gabon,” Dlamini-Zuma told a colloquium held at the department of international relations and cooperation.

“Why do we talk about South Africa bullying to get the position? We were told Ping said he wouldn’t stand if Southern Africa put up a candidate. We were told if there was a candidate he would not contest,” she said.

“I was minding my own business at Home Affairs. Ping had finished his term, and now he is fighting it. It can’t be that South Africa is a bully.”

The Global Diaspora Summit this week, where South Africa hoped to get more support for the AU position, ended with more questions than answers.

The summit was supposed to showcase South Africa and Dlamini-Zuma as its candidate for AU commission chairperson.

Only nine heads of state from African countries pitched for the summit, including Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and President Teodoro Obiang Nguema from Equatorial Guinea.

The rest of the invited countries sent their foreign ministers or other officials to attend.

On Wednesday Nigerian Vice-President Mohammed Sambo gave Dlamini-Zuma a boost by suggesting that Nigeria would support her in the AU election, set to take place in Malawi in July.

But the joy was shortlived.

The Nigerian high commission followed his comment with a hurried statement saying Sambo was merely being “friendly”.

“Nigeria would from time to time support South Africa for positions at different international organisations and the UN whenever the need arises.

The vice-president made no specific reference to the position of the AU chairperson in his remarks.”

A similar situation arose earlier this week when the Algerian foreign minister stated that his country would support South Africa, but his comments provoked suspicion.

One African foreign minister told City Press that Algeria introduced the argument that South Africa cannot aim for such a position because big countries in Africa shouldn’t focus too much power on themselves.

A gentleman’s agreement exists in the AU that small and relatively poor countries will take up key positions in the AU secretariat, which excludes South Africa, Algeria, Nigeria, Egypt and Libya, as the key funders of the AU, from top positions.

But South Africa’s counter-argument is that strong leadership in the AU is necessary to avoid situations like the one which developed when the AU struggled to make up its mind about the conflict in Libya.

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