There are simmering conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Guinea-Bissau. That is the reality of this job, which is about running the administrative arm of the 54-member AU.
This is a baptism of fire for her, as she prepares to sit like a company CEO, at the helm of the AU’s administrative arm.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s victory is a feather in the cap for SA’s foreign policy. President Jacob Zuma will breathe a sigh of relief. He often finds himself putting out domestic fires in the African National Congress (ANC’s) succession race. His detractors in the ANC say SA’s standing on the continent has dropped under his presidency. This victory arms him with a response to those who say he is not a strong foreign policy president.
Zuma looks set for re-election in December. But the balance of power in the ANC is a seesaw. Zuma seems to be rising to the challenge despite suffering a setback at the ANC’s policy conference last month, when a policy concept he had endorsed was trashed.
The victory will bolster his standing in SA, as Zuma has proved he can play the shrewd political game in the minefield of African politics. This is also a big victory for the ANC, because it wants to be recognised as a strong force on the continent.
Holding the position is seen as a matter of prestige more than political influence, as Dr Dlamini-Zuma will not be taking political decisions on her own, says Tom Wheeler, a research associate at the South African Institute of International Affairs.
Coupled with Zuma’s role as the “champion” of infrastructure development on the continent, the position will give SA more clout.
Zuma volunteered to head infrastructure development last year. This role is being co-ordinated by National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel. The job entails co-ordinating infrastructure networks such as roads and railways between SA and East Africa.
SA is also a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council. Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s win may put more wind in SA sails so much that a push for a permanent UN seat will not sound like a far-fetched idea. But Wheeler says: “It’s a nice idea, but in my view it’s not going to happen.”
The AU Commission position has up to now been held by small countries. SA’s victory breaks that trend encouraged by a gentleman’s agreement, though this was questioned by SA’s diplomats.
Wheeler says Dr Dlamini-Zuma has six months to acquaint herself with her new role, before the next heads of state summit.
The summits are held twice a year. One of the immediate tasks filling vacancies, but firstly establishing if there is enough money to fill them. She would also need to win the confidence of her bosses, in a charged environment.
The race increased tensions between French-and English-speaking Africa, and also pitted regional blocs in Southern Africa and West Africa against each other, which could create a tense environment after the election.
For SA’s International Affairs Minister Nkoana Maite-Mashabane, there has to be change within the AU. “What should change (with her election) … there will be more accountability and fast-tracked implementation of decisions taken by the heads of state,” she says.
Meanwhile on the local front, talks have been that the departure of Dr Dlamini-Zuma could spark new problems at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Since her instalment as the Minister, Dr Dlamini-Zuma has stabilised what was the ailing and incoherent department plagued by corruption and maladministration, amongst others.
Concerned citizens whom SOWETOLIFE MAGAZINE ONLINE interviewed, are of the view(s) that President Zuma should appoint an internal person rather than an outsider. This according to them, would show the competence and regard the staff at the department has performed under Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s hierachy.