African Union (AU) Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has chosen to remain mum about whether or not she will run for a second term at the body when hers expires later this year.
In fact, it isn’t even clear whether she has made up her mind about it.
The talk in the corridors of AU headquarters in Addis Ababa for the past few months has been that Dlamini-Zuma was packing to go home, possibly to answer the call of some ANC lobbyists to run for ANC president in 2017.
Those who support this view point to the lack of any lobbying on South Africa’s part as evidence that she would pack her bags soon.
“There has been silence, not a word of a campaign,” a South African government official who works in diplomatic circles said.
A number of officials at the AU and ANC lobbyists back home have remarked on how often Dlamini-Zuma had travelled to South Africa in recent months.
At least three people working closely with her said Dlamini-Zuma had chosen to keep them – and almost everyone else – in the dark about her plans.
One of them said the secrecy possibly had to do with her trying to shore up more support for a major continental development plan introduced in 2013 under her tenure, called Agenda 2063.
“So far, only 27 countries [out of the AU’s 54 member states] have adopted it, and even they are still in the process of domesticising it. If she makes the call now [that she is leaving], Agenda 2063 might be put on the back burner,” he said.
At least two AU staffers were expecting her to give some public indication of her plans at this weekend’s summit, but at the same time, they said she might only make her decision known when nominations for the position close, which usually happens around March or April – three months before the midyear summit.
Dlamini-Zuma fought a bruising battle to be elected in 2012, with Francophone countries pitted against the Anglophones – a battle she did not really manage to fully recover from.
Some are speculating that she wanted to avoid a repeat of this battle, but only one clear competitor has emerged so far – Algeria’s foreign minister, Ramtane Lamamra.
Even though, anecdotally, Lamamra has been campaigning to raise his profile in the continental body, analysts from the Institute for Security Studies said there was still uncertainty over whether he was eligible to serve.
Lamamra had already spent two terms on the AU Commission in the peace and security portfolio, and it’s as yet unclear whether the three-term limit applies.
Dlamini-Zuma has not always enjoyed support from member states in the AU.
For instance, she had been pushing to send in AU peacekeeping troops to Burundi following a decision by member states at the peace and security council in December. This week, however, member states retreated from that decision after Burundi refused to allow troops in and after violence in the country eased somewhat.
Some of her legacy projects are also struggling. One of the big issues she has been working on was to improve the AU’s finances so that it could be largely self-funding.
She launched the AU Foundation to rally funds from the private sector. At the AU summit in Johannesburg in June, the foundation held a presidential golf day and gala dinner, but at this year’s summit, the foundation didn’t feature on the programme.
Sources say the AU’s finances are suffering.
Although Dlamini-Zuma is set to jet off home next week after the summit, and despite calls from powerful lobby groups in the ANC for her to succeed President Jacob Zuma in 2017, she is by no means a shoo-in.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s supporters are campaigning for ANC tradition to prevail, meaning the deputy steps up to become president, while Zuma’s detractors fear that Dlamini-Zuma would just be a continuation of his rule.