Dlamini-Zuma will try again

2012-02-04 15:33

The South African government is expecting that Minister of Home Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will take another shot at becoming chairperson of the African Union commission.

But South African government officials are not yet clear on what approach they would take to ensure there is no repeat of the humiliation of losing a second time.

Shortly after her defeat on Monday in Addis Ababa, a member of Dlamini-Zuma’s lobbying team said South Africa will need to use its economic muscle to get African countries to play ball.

“The time for being Mr Nice Guy is over. We need to remind countries that they need South Africa and they can’t vote for other people if they are so dependent on us,” an official said.

But others are more careful, aware that South Africa is already perceived as the bully in the African playground.

“No, I don’t think we’ll resort to economic diplomacy because we would want support based on political commitment, not blackmail. I don’t think South Africa will have te revert to carrot-and-stick diplomacy,” an official in the department of international relations told City Press this week.

The South African government tried hard to mask its disappointment at the outcome of the vote, which saw Dlamini-Zuma losing by only a few votes to incumbent Jean Ping.

But behind the scenes officials were trying to make sense of what happened.

Some of them claim the foreign ministers may not have been on the same wavelength as their presidents, leading to South Africa being misinformed about whose support they had.

“About ten countries who we thought would vote with us disappointed us,” a member of the lobbying team said.

Although the vote is ostensibly a secret ballot, information always leaks about who voted for whom, AU veterans say.

Officials don’t want to divulge if there were any SADC countries that voted for Ping, but shortly after the vote there were some suspicions about whether the Democratic Republic of the Congo had voted for Dlamini-Zuma.

The SADC gave the mandate to Dlamini-Zuma to represent the region as the candidate.

The AU has now appointed a committee to re-look at the rules of the organisation around elections.

The rules exclude Ping from standing again because he did not achieve the two-thirds majority that is necessary to take the top job. But they are silent on a candidate who, like Dlamini-Zuma, also didn’t make the two-thirds majority threshold, but is not the incumbent.

The AU has never before been faced with such an issue.

A key stumbling block will remain Nigeria, and South Africa will continue its efforts to convince the West African country to throw its weight behind Dlamini-Zuma.

Officials expect Ping to be disqualified from running and then the lobbyists will try to make Dlamini-Zuma a con-sensus candidate, making the need for a vote at the next AU summit in Lilongwe, Malawi in June superfluous.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, the outgoing chairperson of the AU, told African leaders in Addis Ababa that a consensus should be sought to avoid a bitter contest.

South African officials say at that stage it was too late in the game but they do believe Ping’s supporters in Central Africa will vote for Dlamini-Zuma if Ping is not a candidate any more.

“We believe that some Central African countries voted for Ping out of neighbourhood courtesy, so if he is out of the picture those people will vote for us,” one official said.

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