16 July 2012
South African Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has become the first woman, and first member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to lead the executive arm of the African Union, the AU Commission.
Dlamini Zuma, one of South Africa’s longest serving cabinet ministers, won the required 60 percent of votes at the AU leaders summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Sunday night to be named the new chairperson of commission.
Four rounds of voting and 37 votes from 51 countries in the end sealed it for Dlamini Zuma. She defeated Jean Ping of Gabon who was seeking reelection.
It looked like it was going to be another stalemate after the first round of voting saw Dlamini Zuma receive 27 votes against Ping’s 24. It was then down to a second round, which Dlamini also won, by 29 votes to Ping’s 22.
In a dramatic turn of events, the third round saw the South African snatch an extra four votes, giving her 33 in total to Ping’s 18. In the final round, the voting heads of state gave Dlamini Zuma 37 votes, effectively placing her at the helm of the AU.
It hasn’t been an easy journey for Dlamini Zuma, as the election ended in a deadlock in January after both contenders failed to garner two-thirds of the votes, forcing the AU to postpone the poll to its next summit.
Determined not to back down, the SADC has spent the last six months rallying support for Dlamini Zuma, consolidating their case by pointing out that the region had never been afforded the opportunity to occupy the AU’s top position.
They also reasoned that a woman had never occupied the position and that it was a fitting time as the AU had declared this a Decade of Women.
In a statement, Pretoria said that, with its campaigning, the SADC was driven by the objective of transforming the AU into an efficient and effective continental body.
At a press conference on Sunday, shortly before the election, Dlamini Zuma stressed the importance of unity within the AU. She said strengthening African unity and advancing the transformation of the continent would be among the things she would strive for.
“I would like to make a contribution like any African citizen. I would like to make a contribution to our organisation; that’s what has motivated me to come back,” she said.
Shortly after the vote, Dlamini Zuma was sneaked away with the rest the South African delegation, including President Jacob Zuma, for a celebration.
The AU was expected to make the official announcement on Monday, the last day of the summit.