New blood in AU necessary

Over the past months, the South African government’s representatives have travelled the African continent, lobbying support for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to replace Gabon’s Jean Ping as chairperson of the commission of the African Union (AU).

This weekend, African heads of states will meet in Addis-Ababa to decide on whether Ping will continue in that position or whether new blood is needed.

Such is the dichotomous geo-political nature of the continent, that the contest appears to have pitted southern Africa against its Francophone counterparts.

French-speaking Africa will push for Ping. With the backing of France, a country that still retains a neo-colonial grip on her former subjects and seeks to advance her interests on the continent through them. This is not healthy for an independent Africa.

Especially as the AU is a moribund organisation increasingly bereft of the authority and capacity to effect the required shift towards a continent where citizens are not defrauded of their right to democracy through stolen elections, compromise governments of
national unity or just plain-old dictatorships.

The Mail & Guardian believes Dlamini-Zuma is the antidote for such a malaise.

Behind Liberia’s Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson (Africa’s first female head of state), she is the most prominent female African politician on a patriarchal continent.

But it has less to do with gender and much more to do with her track record. Her two terms as foreign minister means she is au fait with the requirements of international diplomacy, while her work in brokering an end to the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, means she is not afraid to knock heads and ruffle feathers in getting the job done.

And she works tirelessly: anyone who can turn around South Africa’s department of home affairs to achieve its first clean audit since the advent of democracy obviously has both vision and stamina. A clinical grasp of what needs to be done, and how to get it done.

We don’t buy the argument that the post should not go to a “big” country. A bit of heft behind the commission chair will help it to be more effective, and there is no evidence to suggest that small countries more effectively manage the balance of power at the AU.

South Africa’s own dithering, inconsistent foreign policy may work against her, and we would miss her in Cabinet, but Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has our support.

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