South Africa's AU blow

2012-01-31 00:00

AFRICA has shown the South African goverment that there were limits to the country’s power on the continent, a top foreign policy analyst said yesterday.

Jakkie Cilliers of the Institute for Security Studies was speaking on the sidelines of the African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa yesterday after Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s failed bid to be the new chair of the AU Commission.

It appeared that all 15 countries of the West African Economic Community (Ecowas) and all the Francophone African countries voted against South Africa.

There were also indications that, contrary to expectations, not even all the Southern African Development Community member countries voted for Dlamini-Zuma.

Nigeria earlier said publicly that it would vote against Dlamini-Zuma, and all indications were that Egypt led the “onslaught” of all the Arabic African countries in North Africa against South Africa.

Dlamini-Zuma and the incumbent, Gabon’s Jean Ping, had squared off in a tension-filled election yesterday, with three rounds of voting. In the first round, Ping won by three votes, in the second, Dlamini-Zuma won by two votes.

When Ping clinched the third round, Dlamini-Zuma had to withdraw from the race, said the rules.

But the rules also determined that Ping still had to secure two-thirds of the votes, which he failed to do.

Under the organisation’s rules Ping will not be able to stand again, although there was confusion last night whether Dlamini-Zuma would be similarly barred, with some officials stating this logic applied to her too.

International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told journalists there was no rule that Dlamini-Zuma would not be able to contest again.

“If the SA Development Community [SADC] want her again, then we will have no problem to propose her as a candidate again.”

“We will consult, but we strongly feel that from the informal discussions we have been having, SADC will field a candidate because we have never been given an opportunity to lead this organisation,” she said.

The current deputy head of the AU Commission, Erastus Mwencha, will act until July in Malawi, when another election will be held for the post.

Nkoana-Mashabane tried to put a positive spin on events, saying it was the first time that a woman had come this far for election to the AU commission.

It was a “proud moment” for South Africa.

After the election, Dlamini-Zuma and other women ministers and delegates were seen dancing in the corridors of the new Chinese-sponsored AU headquarters.

They insisted Ping’s failure to be re-elected was a blow for patriarchy.

However, Cilliers’ analysis was less upbeat. He said Pretoria had transgressed the unspoken AU rule that none of Africa’s major countries (South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and Nigeria) should compete for the position.

“South Africa must have realised yesterday [from this unprecedented opposition to it in Africa itself] that Africa is multipolar and that the continent operates in coalitions of countries and has no room for one single major country’s influence,” he said.

Besides breaking the “protocol rule” that candidates of Africa’s smaller countries are earmarked for this particular AU post, West Africa and the Francophone African bloc in particular were angry about South Africa’s recent diplomatic involvement in conflict spots.

“South Africa’s weak foreign policy has cost it dearly,” another observer in Addis Ababa told sister paper Beeld.

“It’s very clear that, with Nigeria leading the way, the opposition against South Africa was ascribed to this country’s disastrous attempts to keep former Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo in power last year after he had lost the presidential election.”

Other factors were South Africa’s failed role in Libya in support of the Gaddafi regime and its brief involvement in Kenya in the aftermath of the 2007 election violence there, according to another source.

It is believed that both Libya’s new government and the coalition government in Kenya also voted against Dlamini-Zuma.

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