For the first time in the history of the African Union, a woman has been elected as president of the AU Commission: South African Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has prevailed over incumbent President Jean Ping. At the fourth round of voting, held behind closed doors during the XIX Summit in Addis Ababa, the former South Africanforeign minister received 37 consents, three more than needed t obtain the majority required by the AU Statute. In the third round Dlamini-Zuma was chosen from among 33 participants, while Ping only got support from 18.
The Gabonese diplomat has since withdrawn his candidature. There was joy and satisfaction among the Member States of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the representatives of the Anglophone countries who have long supported the South African representative. Continental and international press sources point out that Dlamini-Zuma and Ping have finally ended their power struggle, which had lasted fo over ix months, when the last AU Summit had ended in stalemate ad the interim presidency of the Commission was entrusted to the Gabonese diplomat.
Besides being the first woman to earn this office, get this chair, it is also the first time that an English speaking executive will head the AU. Dlamini-Zuma, 63, an ethnic Zulu, is a native of the province of Natal. During her studies in zoology, back in the 1970′s, she was a militant anti-apartheid activist who was forced into exile, ending her career training in England before settling in neighboring Swaziland, where she met Jacob Zuma, whom she married in the early 80′s.
In 1994 she was chosen by Nelson Mandela as Minister of Health of the first post-apartheid government, and since then her career has been steadily rising, serving as minister of the Interior and minister of Foreign Affairs for ten years. On the eve of the vote at the summit in Addis Ababa over the current AU president, Thomas Boni Yayi, from Benin, had warned his colleagues that “we cannot fail (…) this situation cannot continue further because it would compromise the functioning of the Commission and harm image and credibility.” Apart from the election of the Commission president, the AU Summit also devoted time to regional and continental issues, especially the cises in Mali and the DR Congo.