New African Union chair calls for support


    27 July 2012

    South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has appealed for support as she prepares to take over as chairperson of the African Union Commission, saying her new role presented “a great responsibility” not only for her but for all women on the continent.

    Dlamini-Zuma was delivering a lecture in Pretoria on Sunday organised by the African National Congress Women’s League.

    “It’s a huge responsibility not only for me but for all of us,” she said. “It is for the first time that a woman gets to be in this position.”

    She told a packed Pretoria City Hall that the African Union’s (AU’s) primary task had always been to tackle poverty, underdevelopment and illiteracy and to ensure that the continent became prosperous.

    ‘African Union must be citizen-driven’

    Citizens had to be able to drive the AU, she said, because if it was left to governments, it would not go anywhere.

    “The vision of the African Union is an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa driven by its own citizens in the global arena … So the question we must ask as South Africans is, how are we going to drive the African Union, and if we were not doing that, it’s time that we started doing so.”

    Earlier this month, Dlamini-Zuma won a tightly contested vote to become the new head of the African Union Commission (AUC). Her election made her the first female to head the AUC, ending a bruising leadership battle between her and Gabon’s Jean Ping, who was seeking re-election after serving in the top AU post since 2008.

    On Sunday, Dlamini-Zuma emphasised the importance of unity within the continental body, saying only a united AU would be able to deliver a prosperous Africa. She said that when African leaders formed the Organisation of African Unity, forerunner of the AU, their goal had always been to unite the continent.

    “These leaders decided that Africa must unite and that those countries that were not liberated should be liberated. It was clear from these leaders that we need to find African solution to African problems,” Dlamini-Zuma said.

    “This organisation is looking at an integrated Africa, not Africa of individual states who are only concerned with their own business. So when I go and work there, I will be working as a servant of Africa and not South Africa, and off course South Africa will be part of those that I will be serving.”

    Bigger role for Pan African Parliament

    Dlamini-Zuma suggested that the Pan African Parliament, headquartered in Midrand, north of Johannesburg, be given legislative powers, something she said would help in speeding up development on the continent.

    “Because if we are going to be integrating, we need to harmonise our laws, and if we are to increase trade we need to harmonise the way we work and the way we do things, and the Pan African Parliament could play a huge role in this regard.”

    She noted that, in the face of a global economic crisis crippling world markets, Africa was the only continent that was still enjoying substantial growth.

    “We have the biggest deposition of many minerals throughout the continent, and the question is how do we use them for the benefit of the people of the continent. We still have big potential to grow in agriculture so that we can export more; it’s important to see that these opportunities are not missed opportunities.”

    The biggest challenge was that Africa lacked good infrastructure. “That’s one of our biggest challenges. We must make sure we are properly connected, we must make sure we build this infrastructure so that the integration we speaking of becomes meaningful.”

    Dlamini-Zuma is one of South Africa’s longest-serving Cabinet ministers. Appointed minister of health in 1994, she moved from there to foreign affairs before becoming minister of home affairs in 2009.

    As minister of home affairs, she is credited with having cut down on corruption, professionalised the services offered by the department and modernised its internal processes.

    Peace and security remain priorities for the AU, and the 63-year-old Dlamini-Zuma will be expected to provide leadership to enhance the AU Peace and Security Council’s ability to resolve conflicts on the continent.

    She will also have to oversee the implementation of the mooted intra-Africa trade and free trade areas, and ensure the success of economic partnership agreements within the continent.