Final push for Dlamini-Zuma

2012-05-19 14:54

Upcoming summit a last-ditch attempt to elevate minister to AU Commission post

Officials are considering withdrawal to avoid humiliation

South Africa is hoping to use the upcoming Global Diaspora Summit, hosted by the department of international relations, as a last-ditch attempt to boost the chances of Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma becoming chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission.

But in the background officials are quietly preparing themselves for the withdrawal of Dlamini-Zuma as a candidate to spare South Africa further humiliation.

A meeting of southern African leaders in Luanda, Angola, next month will determine the fate of the floundering campaign.

The AU has tasked South Africa and Gabon – from where Dlamini-Zuma’s rival, Jean Ping, hails – to find a solution to the stalemate that ended the AU summit in January.

Dlamini-Zuma (63) lost the vote by a small margin, but incumbent Ping couldn’t secure the necessary three-quarters of the vote to continue in his position.

Since the January summit, President Jacob Zuma has met with Gabonese President Ali Bongo, but a solution remains out of reach.

Officials say Bongo has offered the withdrawal of Ping (69) from the race, in return for Dlamini-Zuma doing the same.

“They have to save face, they are already humiliated by withdrawing, now they are telling us ‘so what will you do’,” a lobbyist for Dlamini-Zuma told City Press.

South Africa’s strategy has been to circulate a list of the names and nationalities of former chairpersons to make a case for the need for a candidate from the region.

This is referred to as the “rotational principle”.

But South Africa’s detractors insist another “principle” is at play – the gentleman’s agreement that
a big nation will not take up this position, which is in effect a prime minister of Africa.

South Africa has also been unable to influence enough nations to changeing their initial vote to ensure a win for Dlamini-Zuma.

But there is also increasing talk about her withdrawal because Gabon would be happy with a candidate from southern Africa, but who hails from a different nationcountry in the region.

There are, however, concerns that there are no strong candidates in the region for this strategically important position.

“If we withdraw, we cannot withdraw unilaterally. The decision will have to be made by the region because she (Dlamini-Zuma) is the candidate for the region, not for South Africa,” a lobbyist said.

Another scenario being lobbied is that the rotational principle only kicks in after Ping has finished his second term.

“People are saying to us, ‘what has he done wrong? Give him a chance to finish a second term and then we’ll put her in’,” the lobbyist said.

This view is rejected by South Africa as it is seen as merely deferring the problem and giving no guarantee of Dlamini-Zuma’s election in five years’ time.

South Africa was hoping next week’s Global Diaspora Summit, which will bring together Africans both inside and outside Africa, would create a platform for South Africa to show off its competency, an official said. “We will use the opportunity to lobby. We will do what we can.”

The key aim of the summit is to encourage Africans abroad to invest in their home continent.

A fund will be established to manage remittances, which amount to $40 billion (R331 billion) yearly, from Africans abroad.

“The diaspora fund is meant to rally those who have funds to invest in Africa,” said ambassador
Sisa Ngubane, who is managing the summit.

“Some people are convinced Africa is poised for greater things and are willing to take calculated risks to help that along,” he told reporters.

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