Dlamini–Zuma win cause for women's celebrationBy JANET OTIENO | Monday, July 16 2012 at 15:46
It is a season for African women at last. There was a change of guard at the African Union after members voted South African Home Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as its leader.
AU has at last sent a strong continental signal by electing a woman of an exceptional calibre to the helm during this significant period in its history.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma becomes the first woman to head the AU Commission after beating Gabon’s Jean Ping in the closely fought contest. She garnered 60 per cent of the votes.
She also becomes the first person from SADC region to occupy the seat. West Africa has held it seven times, Central Africa three times and East Africa two times.
At one point, Dr Dlamini-Zuma had to set the record straight after rumours started doing the rounds that her candidature divided member states along Anglophone and Francophone lines, and between the weak versus the powerful nations.
Her election has disapproved the common notion about AU’s unwritten rule that those seeking an executive position should not come from key member states, which pay about 75 per cent of continental body’s annual budget.
The countries in question have been Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and Libya, which have been viewed as big economies.
Speculation was rife ahead of the poll that South African Government might use its influence to bully smaller and weak states after the country offered soft loan to Malawi and a jet to South Sudan President Salva Kiir.
Looking at all the issues raised by critics, they revolved around South Africa as a country and not Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s qualifications as a person.
Methinks, she is best suited for the job based on her training, background, experience and integrity.
The bloc has also never had a woman occupying its top position since its formation as the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) 50 years ago, and its transformation into the AU 10 years ago.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma could commit to using her position to improve the lives of women across the continent. This is because AU has already adopted the policy on Gender Parity, thus the South African is more likely to support the AU Decade for Women (2010-2020), which could have been a pipedream with a man at the helm.
The initiative aims to create conditions under which the participation of all African women in the continent's socio-economic development can be guaranteed.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma cut her teeth in the African National Congress party as a freedom fighter at the time when the outfit was banned by the apartheid regime. She could bring this experience to front pan-African agenda at a global arena, thus giving AU some credibility. South Africa is currently a member of emerging economies called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).
Dr Dlamini-Zuma has a remarkable resume, given that she has held powerful Cabinet positions from Health, Foreign Affairs to Home Affairs, besides being a member the ruling ANC party national executive committee.
She has also sat on several boards and been a leader in several organisations in South Africa and beyond. These illustrate that she is not just your ordinary woman leader, but someone armed with skills and competencies needed to transform an organisation into efficient and effective one.
The dawning of this new era might signify that it is no longer business as usual in the continental politics. People want fresh breed of leaders and Dr Dlamini-Zuma will be an inspiration to other African women with potential to take on leadership positions.
As she takes the seat, I hope Dr Dlamini-Zuma will consolidate AU as a formidable, premier, pan-African institution, which will ensure that Africa’s developmental agenda is collectively advanced through integration, peace and security and conflict resolution as she had pledged in her campaigns.
Email: email@example.com / Twitter: JanetOtieno
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