Dlamini-Zuma haters must change their tune

2015-02-01 17:00

The article “What will be on the lips of AU leaders next week” (City Press, January 25 2015) by Carien du Plessis is confirmation that South Africans have mastered Mzansiphobia. We believe and amplify the negative narrative that others invent and propagate about ourselves.

This article was a preview of what was expected to unfold at the African Union (AU) summit this week. On Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the chairperson of the AU commission, it said: “Her leadership has been strongly criticised, mainly by Francophone countries. Some criticisms include that she has employed too many South Africans at commission headquarters and hasn’t had a clear strategy – other than her Vision 2063 for Africa...”

This narrative is stale news. It was planted in the wake of her election in a journal published in Europe for circulation in Francophone Africa. Things have changed since then and people have moved on, except in South Africa.

But what are the facts?

It is ludicrous to dismiss Vision 2063 as a nonevent because it is to the AU what the National Development Plan is to South Africa.

It is a transformative programme that will impact the AU and individual African countries.

Besides, the AU Commission has a widely disseminated strategic plan covering the period 2014 to 2017. As Dlamini-Zuma states in the preface to this document: “The plan constitutes the framework that outlines the overall priorities of the commission for the four-year period, and provides guidance for programme formulation and prioritisation. It provides space for [the AU Commission] to play its facilitating role, especially with respect to policy and strategy setting, coordination and catalysing Africa’s socioeconomic and integration agenda, consensus-building and advocacy, experience and information-sharing. It seeks to establish the basis for creating the continental public good and the enabling conditions necessary for peace, security, political stability and growth.”

Who says the AU Commission under Dlamini-Zuma has no clear strategy?

The AU has responded fairly well to recent crises in Africa, from the Ebola outbreak and Boko Haram, to Burkina Faso and South Sudan. Ongoing crises like those in Libya, Somalia and the Great Lakes region continue to receive priority attention through peacemaking efforts.

On the issue of staff, there is not an iota of truth in what is claimed in the article. Each member state has a quota on staffing at the headquarters, which protects the AU from being overwhelmed by one state. In the case of the AU Commission, the chairperson’s office staff comprises advisers, personal assistants, protocol support, security and so forth.

Immediately outside her office is the deputy chairperson and further on are the eight commissioners with their well-staffed directorates. The AU chief of staff is from Burkina Faso and none of the commissioners, nor their directors, is South African.

South Africans have historically and to date been thinly represented in the directorates.

Besides a handful of advisers and personal support staff in the chairperson’s office, other team members are from various regions in Africa. It’s an exaggeration, and a gross one, to suggest that Dlamini-Zuma has employed too many South Africans at the commission.

We should pat ourselves on the back that one of our own was elected to this post, instead of spending our time in negativity and self-hate. Dlamini-Zuma is working as part of a team, not as a lone soldier on a messianic salvation mission of our continent. Like all of us, she’s human, but is patriotic and a Pan-Africanist of conviction. We should be telling her: Keep up the good work for a better Africa!

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