Race for top AU spot goes to the wire

2012-01-28 20:29

Dlamini-Zuma’s recent forceful campaign seems to be bearing fruit

The race between Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and incumbent Jean Ping for the chair of the African Union (AU) is expected to go down to the wire.

The election takes place tomorrow morning.

According to analysts and lobbyists, the two candidates are neck and neck, but neither is expected to get the two-thirds majority needed to win the election.

Dlamini-Zuma is expected to garner 30 votes while Ping will get 24 votes. Other tallies say Dlamini-Zuma has 34 votes in the bag and a further eight countries are “wobbly”, as one official put it.

Fifty-three African countries are eligible to vote, although Africa has 55 countries. Morocco is not part of the AU because of the recognition of Western Sahara and Madagascar has been suspended for its unconstitutional change of government.

Incumbency and his French background is expected to stand Ping in good stead, but Dlamini-Zuma’s forceful campaign over the last few months seems to be bearing fruit.

Jakkie Cilliers, the Institute for Security Studies executive director, told City Press that South Africa’s campaign has been more “hardball” than expected.

“The relationship with Nigeria is being put on the spot in this campaign. South Africa basically told Nigeria if it doesn’t vote for Dlamini-Zuma, they’ll remember it.”

At the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa yesterday the word in the corridors was that Nigeria was trying to convince South Africa to support it in its bid for the AU chair – the political head of the organisation.

In return they would support Dlamini-Zuma for the chairpersonship of the commission – is the administrative head of the organisation.

In this campaign countries will look at their national interests before saying yay or nay to Dlamini-Zuma.
“If your national budget is funded by Paris, how can you refuse to do what Paris says,” a South African official said, referring to smaller Francophone African countries that are heavily dependent on France for budgetary support.

Ping is said to be supported by France, as he hails from Gabon, a Francophone country.

Following ANC tradition, Dlamini-Zuma held the diplomatic version of a Siyanqoba rally in Addis Ababa, two days before the vote that could make her the most powerful woman in Africa.

Officially the event was a reception by SADC to welcome guests to Addis Ababa for the African Union Summit, but the topic that dominated the speeches was Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign for the job as chairperson of the AU commission.

For what it lacked in numbers – only 200 people can fit into the Grand Ballroom at the five-star Sheraton hotel – it made up for in the importance of its guests.

Apart from President Jacob Zuma, several foreign ministers from other African countries as well as senior officials came to pledge their support for Dlamini-Zuma.

Instead of the usual pap en vleis served at Siyanqoba rallies, delegates here were treated to traditional Ethiopian cuisine coupled with colonial flair in the mini croissants and cream-filled chocolate cakes.

Champagne flutes filled with GH Mumm were passed around when President Zuma introduced a toast to his
ex-wife, who also celebrated her birthday on Friday night.

One of their daughters, UCT student Thuthu, flew out from Cape Town to support her mother.

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