Dlamini-Zuma's failures, achievements as AU Commission chair

Cape Town – The African Union is expected next week to elect Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's successor as chairperson of the bloc's commission.

African heads of state failed to elect a new head of the commission last year during its 27th summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

None of the three candidates at the time was able to muster the two thirds majority to win the secret box.

News24 takes a look at some of Dlamini-Zuma’s achievements during her tenure.

Three things that went right:

1.     At the African Union's 50th anniversary in 2013, Dlamini-Zuma spearheaded the launch of Agenda 2063 – a long-term vision of where Africa wants to be in another 50 years. While the success would depend on the implementation by member states, she did manage to get political buy-in for the plan and popularise it.

2.     She managed to crack the glass ceiling in Africa as the first woman to lead the continental organisation. Many have argued that the continent isn’t ready for a woman in that position, but two women (out of five candidates) are running for AU Commission chairperson this year, and at least one is a very strong favourite to follow in Dlamini-Zuma’s steps. She made women’s rights the theme of two consecutive AU summits and the continental body started a major campaign to end child marriage which, together with similar campaigns by other organisations, seems to be bearing some fruit.

3.     Her tenure at AU helped turn the attention of South Africans to continental issues after former president Thabo Mbeki’s African Renaissance had come to an end. At home Dlamini-Zuma was invited to a number of talks during which she spoke on African issues and preached free movement and tolerance from South Africans towards our neighbours. A lot of this is related to her campaign for the presidency, but at least it made South Africans look beyond the borders again. 

And a few things that didn't:

1.     One of the main criticisms against Dlamini-Zuma is that she was never really present at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. She spent a lot of time travelling back and forth to South Africa on ANC business, something that caused resentment amongst staff and AU partners – and affected her work negatively.

2.     Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign to get elected in 2012 was highly polarising and she never really managed to fully unite the continental body after that. A lack of unity of purpose would have made her work in Addis a lot more difficult.

3.     In her efforts to focus more on conflict prevention through development rather than just putting out fires, Dlamini-Zuma was at times slow to react to crises and to speak out on burning issues. In recent times, following the ANC Women’s League’s announcement that they want her to become South African president, she has been outspoken on Twitter about problems in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and The Gambia. Some say this is too little, too late. 
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