SA backs Botswana in Dlamini-Zuma AU successor debate

2016-07-06 06:52
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (AFP)

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (AFP)

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Johannesburg - South Africa is backing Botswana Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, to succeed African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma when her term ends this year.

International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told journalists in Pretoria on Monday "the region is campaigning with her and South Africa is fully behind this initiative".

The vacancy arose after Dlamini-Zuma, who would likely have been automatically elected for a second term, failed three months ago to make herself available for the position again.

Talk within the African National Congress is that she is returning to SA to run for a leadership position within the party at its congress next year.

The African Union is set to elect a new commission chairperson at its summit that starts next week in Kigali.

Nkoana-Mashabane said Venson-Moitoi was suitable because "she's been around in government" and she has been a minister.

Nkoana-Mashabane said the other regions supported SADC because it was the region's turn.

"They were all unanimously prepared to give us a second bite and then take the rotation [of the chairpersonship] to the north," she said. "Even the north themselves said they supported us, but that does not debar other countries from fielding candidates," she said.

Ambitions might dashed

Nkoana-Mashabane hinted that SADC had to lobby the northern region of Africa to support the southern region for a second term.

Venson-Moitoi's candidature was decided by SADC three months ago.

However, her ambitions might be dashed because of Botswana's stance on issues on the continent, which often radically differs from that of the AU.

The Peace and Security Council Report from the Institute for Security Studies reported that Venson-Moitoi's bid "could be complicated by the fact that Botswana has not always gone along with AU positions on issues such as the International Criminal Court".

One of the issues many countries in the AU are pushing for at the moment is for African states to withdraw from the International Criminal Court.

Botswana also has resisted acceding to the African Peer Review Mechanism while there are plans from within the mechanism to make membership compulsory to all AU member states.

Concerns from Senegal

Venson-Moitoi will be up against Uganda's Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe, a member of the AU's Panel of the Wise and former Ugandan vice-president, and Agapito Mba Mokuy, foreign minister of Equatorial Guinea.

Mokuy is said to be the candidate with the most money behind him, but The Star's Peter Fabricius wrote that his chairpersonship could be an embarrassment because Equatorial Guinea is a dictatorship.

Kazibwe has a strong international profile, but she hasn't been considered as a serious candidate.

The Nigerian Vanguard newspaper reported in May that Senegal's President Macky Sall raised concerns about the candidates with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. Sall reportedly emphasised "the need for the emergence of a good candidate" for AU Commission chairperson.

Senegal said Professor Abdoulaye Bathily, special representative of the UN Secretary-General for Central Africa, should be one such candidate, while the West African regional bloc Ecowas the next month also lobbied for a better candidate.

The bloc claimed to have asked for a postponement of the elections, according to a Daily Maverick piece by Solomon Dersso, commissioner of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

Interference from France

Nkoana-Mashabane, however, when asked about this said, "it is the first time I hear of" such a call for a postponement, which would see Dlamini-Zuma remain in office for another six months until the next summit in January.

Nkoana-Mashabane did not want to speculate whether Venson-Moitoi's bid would be successful.

"We never entered speculation over whether a candidate from our region will win the race or not. Let's leave it to the democratic process," she said.

Nkoana-Mashabane added that SA had to be "disciplined" about decisions made on a sub-regional level.

She also twice hinted at foreign interference from France, among others, in the election for the AU's top position.

Dlamini-Zuma's election campaign in 2013 had been a bruising one, with strong opposition from francophone countries. In fact, the continent was so divided that the first round of voting did not produce a conclusive result, and the process had to be postponed for six months.

Read more on:    au  |  sadc  |  nkosazana dlamini-zuma  |  botswana  |  southern africa

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