“African leaders want change” – South African foreign minister

The clear message from the deadlocked election for Chairperson of the African Union Commission is that “African leaders want change”, declared South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane in Addis Ababa on Monday.

Maite Nkoana Mashabane
Maite Nkoana Mashabane

Mashabane was speaking to reporters after neither the incumbent chairperson, Jean Ping of Gabon, nor his challenger, South African Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, had won the requisite two third majority, from the 53 heads of state or government, or their representatives present at the African Union summit. Even when, on the fourth round of voting, Ping was unopposed, he could not persuade two thirds of the AU leaders to vote for him.

“The outcome of this process is that the incumbent has lost the election”, Mashabane declared. “ In terms of the rules he had to vacate office and the current Kenyan Deputy Chairperson Mr Erastus Mwencha will become the interim chair of the Commission until the next round of elections which will in all probability take place at the next Summit in June/July 2012 scheduled to take place in Lilongwe, Malawi”.

Mashabane thought the election “was done in a very democratic manner – open, free and fair and following the rules that guide such elections”.

Asked what happens next, Mashabane made it clear that this was a decision for the entire Southern African Development Community (SADC), and not just for South Africa. “We will consult”, she said, “but we strongly feel that, from the informal discussions we have been having, SADC will field a candidate because we have never been given an opportunity to lead this organisation”.

In an indirect criticism of Ping, Mashabane claimed that African leaders “are saying the time has come and the time is now to capacitate this African Union, to strengthen it. That that must come and must come now. This is the loud message we are receiving”.

She added that nothing in the AU rule book stops Dlamini-Zuma from running again in July. “Nothing stops us from fielding the same candidate because she has shown to be a formidable candidate that the incumbent could not defeat. The incumbent could not secure a two-thirds majority after four rounds so this is very clear that leaders of this continent want change and they want it now”.

She was fulsome in her praise for Dlamini-Zuma, saying that South Africa had “nominated one of its best to contest these elections. And one of our best received unanimous support from her region and despite all odds, we stood our ground. I think this must be a very proud moment for us as a nation and for our candidate”.

“No rule stops her (Dlamini-Zuma) from contesting this again”, Mashabane insisted “and I think she has done very, very well”.

But the decision lies with SADC. “If SADC comes back and asks for the Minister to stand as a candidate again, we will do so gladly”, she declared.

Asked whether the election had “polarised” the continent, Mashabane argued that it was simply the outcome of a democratic procedure. “We preach democracy, we follow the rules”, she said. “In a developed country, Belgium, there was no government for two years because they had a hung parliament. No one cried foul and called it disunity”.

She detected a whiff of hypocrisy, noting that Africans are always accused of acting in an undemocratic fashion, but “When we get an outcome of a democratic process, we call it disunity”.

Post published in: Africa News

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