By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
July 16, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) - South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma became the chairperson of the Africa Union Commission on Sunday, making her the first woman to chair the 54-member continental bloc.
- The Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Jean Ping (L) received in his office at the AU Headquarters on Monday, 16 July 2012, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who was elected as the new Chairperson of the Commission, on Sunday night, 15 July 2012, by African Heads of State and Government during the 19th African Union Summit. (Photo AUDIC)
Dlamini-Zuma replaced incumbent, Jean Ping after a hard-fought election at the African Union Summit being held in Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
The former wife of South African President Jacob Zuma gained votes from 37 countries out of the 51 member states allowed to cast votes.
Mali, Guinea-Bissau, and Madagascar were blocked from voting in the election for the head of the commission as the countries remain under suspension of AU membership for unconstitutional regime changes in their respective countries.
Newly-elected Dlamini-Zuma, who will serve as the Chairperson of the AU for the next four years, managed to oust Jean Ping by beating the Gabonese diplomat by 27 votes to 24 in the first round, 29 to 22 in the second and by sweeping a majority 33 votes to 18 in the final round.
The vote over the weekend was the second time Dlamini-Zuma and Ping had competed for the position this year. In an election in January Ping failed to win the required two thirds majority needed to retain the position, depsite beating Dlamini-Zuma in an earlier round.
Due to the non-result six months ago Ping had retained the position until a vote could be held at the current summit. Last week Ping denied rumours that he would not contest the election vowing to stay in the race until the "very end and hope to earn the renewed trust of our continent’s leaders".
The diplomat that there had been a campaign of "malicious lies and innuendoes... to tarnish my hard-earned reputation and destabilise my campaign for re-election."
The former chairman was forced to defend his record on recent instability in Cote d’Ivoire and Libya. He had to deny claims of mismanagement and that France was funding his reelection bid.
"I refuse to lower the moral threshold for this campaign and hope that all involved in the election will also conduct a clean and decent campaign that brings honour to Africa," added Ping.
Ahead of her victory, Dlamini-Zuma told reporters on Sunday at AU headquarters that the union’s elections must not divide Africa but be seen as part of a democratic process.
After she won, Dlamini-Zuma, pledged to work hardly to boost the effectiveness, and efficiency of the pan-African organisation. It is unclear whether she will step down from her position in the South African cabinet.
Welcoming her victory, South Africa’s ANC Women’s League on Monday conveyed a message saying that “Dlamini-Zuma’s victory is not a South African victory or even a SADC (Southern African Development Community) victory, but rather a victory for the women of the African continent who have long suffered under the oppression of colonialism, wars, poverty, and patriarchy,”
Erastus Mwencha of Kenya was re-elected as deputy chair of the AU Commission. The elections for eight other commissioners is under way and the results are expected to be formally announce in the coming days.