Tough at top of AU ta­ble

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will step down from her po­si­tion as chair­per­son of the AU Com­mis­sion in Ad­dis Ababa when her term ends in July. In this ex­tract from a new book by the au­thor ar­gues that the way in which DlaminiZuma was elected in 2012 tar­nished her

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KwaZulu-Na­tal is deal­ing with a tsunami of teenage preg­nan­cies, which, ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment, are rife be­cause, “clearly, the blessers are run­ning amok in the area”.

If you are un­fa­mil­iar with what a “blesser” is, it’s some­one who gives you a lot of money for favours or, as they call them in Gaut­eng, Gup­tas.

And when blessers run amok, I can tell you, no­body is safe. It is ironic that the ANC can spot blessers run­ning amok in KwaZulu-Na­tal, but when a pres­i­dent mirac­u­lously ends up with a R246 mil­lion home ex­ten­sion in the province, they don’t re­alise what’s go­ing on.

Oddly enough, the Inkatha Free­dom Party, in spite of this wave of KwaZulu-Na­tal blessers, is into vir­gin­ity test­ing. I don’t have firm ev­i­dence, but I’m pretty sure they don’t ex­pect the blessers to also get tested.

I watched Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s Q&A in Par­lia­ment this week, and there was not one men­tion of blessers. I sus­pect he thinks “blesser” is a code name for Ray McCauley (Rhema Church founder), which is ironic con­sid­er­ing that the man – Zuma not McCauley, or maybe both – has sin­gle­hand­edly made blessers a func­tion of gov­ern­ment.

Don’t get me wrong, I am aware white cap­i­tal wran­gled it­self into an awk­wardly ne­go­ti­ated eco­nomic set­tle­ment by be­ing blessers for many black peo­ple try­ing to get into busi­ness, oth­er­wise known as Cyril Ramaphosa Syn­drome.

Zuma speaks the lan­guage of pol­i­tics. We aren’t “peo­ple”, we are “com­pa­tri­ots”, which makes us sound like a Mel Gib­son movie. Mr Zuma doesn’t “ad­mit guilt”, he “ap­plies his mind”, which makes his head sound like glue stick. This week’s Q&A ses­sion in Par­lia­ment had Zuma at his most hon­est when he said: “If I am a joke, you must laugh.” But Mr Pres­i­dent, we have been laugh­ing.

The only point of clar­ity was when he ad­mit­ted that the fire pool at his Nkandla home was a swim­ming pool, which is dan­ger­ous be­cause Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers (EFF) leader Julius Malema sug­gested peo­ple should burn down the ANC rather than schools, and right now the fire pool (that’s a swim­ming pool) is in the wrong place.

Of course the EFF was thrown out of Par­lia­ment again. We’ve seen more re­runs of this old show than the SABC try­ing to air 90% lo­cal con­tent. If all they have is show busi­ness, the EFF might as well sell it­self to SABC chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng. He’ll say yes, be­cause the SABC will need to up its artist de­vel­op­ment game if it is to en­sure we get 54 min­utes of amaz­ing South African mu­sic and then just six min­utes of Bey­oncé an hour.

Lo­cal is lekker, but we are ad­dicted to le­mon­ade. South Africa in Africa: Su­per­power or Neo­colo­nial­ist? by Liesl Louw-Vau­dran Tafel­berg 224 pages R210

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and her aides have their of­fices on the top floor of what some here call the head­quar­ters of the ‘South African mafia’. One can­not go up there with­out a se­cu­rity badge, which I didn’t have be­cause I got into the build­ing solely on the back of my South African­ness. So I waited un­til I saw a group of friendly look­ing of­fi­cials en­ter­ing the lift and fol­lowed them.

The view from the top floor is as­tound­ing, and the of­fices are also brand new and squeaky clean – noth­ing at all like the African Union (AU) I had en­coun­tered dur­ing my first visit in the late 1990s to the for­mer head­quar­ters in a di­lap­i­dated build­ing near the new Chi­nese-built head­quar­ters. Then there were only grim cor­ri­dors and dingy of­fices, most of them empty.

When Dlamini-Zuma took over from her pre­de­ces­sor at the AU in Oc­to­ber 2012 af­ter a bruis­ing elec­tion bat­tle, only 40% of po­si­tions in the AU had been filled. The or­gan­i­sa­tion was also hugely un­der­funded.

‘She ar­rived and made a point to visit ev­ery sin­gle of­fice in the build­ing. Some of th­ese peo­ple had worked at the AU all their lives and had never seen a com­mis­sioner, let alone the head of the com­mis­sion, walk in,’ ex­plained a Kenyan friend who worked at the AU Com­mis­sion un­til 2014.

Nev­er­the­less, Dlamini-Zuma’s first term at the AU can be char­ac­terised as prob­lem­atic, to say the least. And one of the main prob­lems is the way in which she was elected to the po­si­tion in the first place.

The first round of the elec­tions for a new chair­per­son of the AU Com­mis­sion took place in Jan­uary 2012. In the pre­ced­ing months, there had been hardly any de­bate about the mat­ter be­cause it was as­sumed that Gabon’s for­mer for­eign min­is­ter, Jean Ping, would be re-elected to the po­si­tion. Ping was like­able, com­mu­ni­cated fairly well and had the sup­port of a num­ber of the heavy­weight coun­tries in the AU and in­ter­na­tional pow­ers such as France.

Even though Ping didn’t do any­thing ex­cep­tional, he didn’t do too badly ei­ther, so there was no real rea­son to get rid of him. For many African lead­ers and fun­ders of the AU, it was bet­ter to have a fairly medi­ocre chair­per­son who was easy to ma­nip­u­late, so they could con­trol what was hap­pen­ing from be­hind the scenes.

For many, the ex­pe­ri­ence with the AU’s first chair­per­son, for­mer Malian pres­i­dent Al­pha Ou­mar Konaré, was a dis­as­ter not to be re­peated. Sev­eral African lead­ers didn’t like hav­ing one of their own lead the com­mis­sion, es­pe­cially not a known demo­crat like Konaré. For his part, Konaré wasn’t go­ing to let him­self be dic­tated to by his for­mer peers.

Konaré put his foot down on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, in­clud­ing dur­ing the 2007 sum­mit, when there was a de­bate over whether Su­dan should host the next AU sum­mit. It was at the height of the war in Dar­fur and the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court had just started pro­ceed­ings against Su­dan’s pres­i­dent, Omar al-Bashir. How could the AU hold its bian­nual sum­mit in Khar­toum un­der th­ese cir­cum­stances? Konaré in­sisted the sum­mit be moved to another coun­try, and it was held in Khar­toum the fol­low­ing year.

So the die was cast as far as most ob­servers were con­cerned.

Ping would stay on. ‘Mr Ping not only en­joys the ben­e­fits of in­cum­bency, but re­mains the strong­est can­di­date, as he is un­der­stood to en­joy the full sup­port of the west­ern, north­ern and east­ern re­gions of Africa,’ AU ex­pert Me­hari Maru, then a se­nior re­searcher at the Ad­dis of­fice of the In­sti­tute for Se­cu­rity Stud­ies, was quoted as say­ing.

Then, around mid-2011, it was an­nounced that the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity was field­ing its own can­di­date for the po­si­tion – South Africa’s home af­fairs min­is­ter, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. There was sur­prise all round at the an­nounce­ment.

‘Though Dlamini-Zuma might have good per­sonal cre­den­tials, the fact that she rep­re­sents South Africa, the largest African econ­omy, counts against her,’ Maru said at the time.

‘Apart from per­ceived for­eign pol­icy fum­blings of South Africa un­der Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, the South African nom­i­na­tion also con­tra­dicts the un­writ­ten agree­ment of ex­clud­ing re­gional pow­ers from vy­ing for the post of chair­per­son of the AU Com­mis­sion.’

The gentle­man’s agree­ment that Maru refers to was an un­der­stand­ing that im­por­tant po­si­tions in the AU should be held only by smaller coun­tries. For this rea­son, the chair had gone to coun­tries like Mali and Gabon in the past. The same con­ven­tion holds in other in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions such as the UN, where can­di­dates from coun­tries such as South Korea, Ghana and Egypt have held the po­si­tion of sec­re­tary-gen­eral, but no one from the ma­jor pow­ers such as the US, France or China have done so.

Fran­co­phone weekly Je­une Afrique com­mented that ‘South Africa wants to be seen as a su­per­power that doesn’t have to ac­count to any­one’. In an anal­y­sis of the up­com­ing elec­tions, the Paris-based magazine also claimed Dlamini-Zuma’s elec­tion would be used as a step­ping stone for Zuma’s real prize, a per­ma­nent seat on the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

African lead­ers are ‘an­noyed’ by this can­di­da­ture and DlaminiZuma is seen as too ‘anti-West­ern’, com­mented Je­une Afrique.

Dlamini-Zuma’s de­trac­tors saw her as hos­tile to West­ern pow­ers – in equal mea­sure to for­mer pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki – she was his min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs for many years. Her crit­ics feared she would drive away the AU’s main fun­ders in Europe and else­where should she be elected. As it turns out, there has been some fric­tion between Dlamini-Zuma and West­ern ambassadors in Ad­dis Ababa th­ese past few years.

Not all African lead­ers share the be­lief that Europe and the US are only out to drive their own agen­das in Africa and ex­ploit the con­ti­nent, and this no­tion is a lot more preva­lent in south­ern Africa.

This stance could be as­cribed to the fact that lib­er­a­tion from colo­nial­ism – and apartheid, in South Africa’s case – hap­pened only fairly re­cently, whereas most coun­tries in other re­gions of Africa at­tained in­de­pen­dence some 40 or 50 years ago. In th­ese coun­tries, there tends to be less of a cul­ture of blam­ing West­ern pow­ers for what goes wrong, and in­stead they seek to use any as­sis­tance of­fered to deal with prob­lems and en­cour­age de­vel­op­ment.

Another is­sue that irked Dlamini-Zuma’s de­trac­tors was the per­cep­tion that she was ‘parachuted’ in from South Africa to oc­cupy the high­est po­si­tion in the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Other than Sivuy­ile Bam, the head of the AU Peace Sup­port Op­er­a­tions De­part­ment, there were very few South Africans in se­nior po­si­tions in the AU at the time that she ran for the po­si­tion of chair­per­son. A South African has not, for ex­am­ple, served as one of the eight AU com­mis­sion­ers.

In any event, ma­jor African role play­ers, such as Nige­ria and Ethiopia, made it very clear that they didn’t sup­port Dlamini-Zuma.

PHOTO: EL­IZ­A­BETH SEJAKE

HEAD­ING OUT Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the chair­per­son of the AU Com­mis­sion

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