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South Africa’s Dlamini-Zuma elected first woman head of AU Commission

Monday, July 16, 2012

Laaska News   July  16, 2012



ADDIS ABABA, July 15 (Xinhua) — South African Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma surged strong in the tight race for the African Union Commission Presidency, clinching 37 votes against Jean Ping of Gabon, the incumbent’s 14 votes to emerge winner of the seat.

There were loud celebrations inside the hall where some 51 African leaders gathered to cast votes for the next leader of the AU Commission, after a six-month deadlock that appeared set to persist.

Dlamini-Zuma’s strong showing at the vote started at the first round, when she got 27 votes against Ping’s 24 votes, surging strongly to 29-22 in the second round, before falling one vote short of the 34 votes required to clinch the seat in the third round.

According to the voting rules, Ping, who was losing, was forced to pull out of the race in the third round, allowing the winning candidate to run alone in a fourth round, where she emerged the winner.

Diplomats recalled tense moments in the voting hall when foreign ministers had to consult on behalf of their heads of state in the final rounds of the vote before Dlamini-Zuma emerged the winner.

“In an election, as understood by democrats, means someone wins or loses. I do not think any election should be divisive,” Dlamini- Zuma, South Africa’s most experience minister, said before the vote.

She was responding to concerns that the vote had generated too much division amongst the various African states, with most states divided along linguistic and regional voting blocs.

“I come from a region that has never held this position. I think I would like to make a contribution to our organization,” she told reporters eager to know why she was putting up a second battle for the post after failing to win in the January contest.

The Southern African candidate appeared to have benefited from divisions within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the East African region, the core of Ping’s support.

The new chief of the AU Commission said she would take a few days to study what works well within the AU Commission before moving to institute changes in the structural operations of the organization.

Her position was contested by critics who were eager to know why she would require more time to study the inner workings of an institution she aspired to lead, amid escalating peace and security challenges in West Africa and the growing tensions in Central Africa.

“My contributions is not about doing things differently, it would be about looking at the organization and strengthening it,” she told reporters before her election.

South Africa’s resounding success at the contested polls is expected to unlock more interest from Pretoria, whose participation at the continental body is expected to be enhanced, analysts said.