On Dlamini-Zuma's candidacy for the AU chairmanship
"Let us not, in the foolish spirit of romance, suppose that we alone could regenerate Europe" - George Canning, the British Foreign Secretary, 1822.
The decision of the SA Government of President Jacob Zuma to put forward the candidature of our current Home Affairs Minister, and former Health and Foreign Affairs Minister (1994-2008), Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, for the position of the Chairman of the African Union (AU) Commission, must be applauded and supported by all right-thinking South Africans.
It is a positive decision that has again highlighted, not for the last time, the ability of President Jacob Zuma's tactical brilliance to harvest amazing long-term strategic gains.
The failure of Dlamini-Zuma's candidature to carry the day at the first contest against the current AU Chairman, Jean Ping in January this year, is a blessing in disguise for South Africa's diplomacy, which has provided South Africans and the peoples of SADC with several more months to further debate and interrogate the meaning, relevance, and significance of AU and its subordinate structures, like the AU Commission, for their daily lives.
I consider the decision by the SA Government and the SADC in support of Dlamini-Zuma's candidature to be the best thing that has happened to our foreign policy since the accession of SA to the G20 and the BRICS. This decision should focus our collective mind on the undeniable fact that SA should move away from its self-anointed role as the High Priest of the African Vision Thing only, towards providing real and real-time leadership to the African continent in the implementation of such a vision, by occupying leading positions in some of the most important bodies of the AU.
So important is this SA government decision that I regard it as signalling the crucial start of the "Second Transition" in SA's foreign policy and diplomatic practice. From now on, it will be less the Vision Thing, (which characterised the SA Presidency of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki), and more and more the 'implementation' phase in our foreign policy and diplomatic practice.
It is indeed high time this Second Transition in our external relations got underway!
As Adam Habib and Nthakeng Selinyane once put it in their article "Why SA should rule the regional roost":
"Whereas the definition of a pivotal state is merely descriptive, the definition of the hegemon stresses leadership; it goes beyond description to emphasise agency. Every hegemon is a pivotal state - but it has to be more than that. Hegemons not only aspire to leadership, and are not only endowed with military, economic, and other resources. They also have a political and socio-economic vision of their transnational environments, and a political willingness to implement such a vision. If the vision is one of security, stability, and development, as is often the case, the hegemon undertakes to underwrite the implementation of these goals." (Business Day, 03 May 2006).
It is thus surprising that Steven Friedman, following the inconclusive contest between Dlamini-Zuma and Jean Ping for the AU Commission chairmanship, wrote:
"The more important problem is that it is not clear what our goals for the continent are. We do not have a coherent vision of what we would like Africa to be...To seek leadership when we have no clear goal for the continent creates the impression that we are more interested in status than in serving. To change this impression, our government would need to spend its time developing a programme for contributing to the continent rather than seeking to lead it." (The New Age, 09 February 2012).
It is really not clear what Steven Friedman means when he states that "we do not have a coherent vision of what we would like Africa to be". Any objective observer would readily and easily concede that the SA Mbeki Presidency (1999-2008) did much to develop our country's "coherent vision of what we would like Africa to be." (See 'Mahube - The Dawning of the Dawn: Speeches, Lectures & Tributes, Thabo Mbeki, 2001).
In this context it is worth also bearing in mind what Claude Kabemba once wrote regarding the issues raised by Steven Friedman. In a paper entitled "South Africa in the DRC: renaissance or neo-imperialism?" Kabemba stated:
"South Africa strongly believes that it is possible to bring peace to the entire continent, thereby shifting African efforts away from war towards development. It is for this reason that the South African president speaks boldly of the rebirth of the African continent, of the 'African Renaissance.' South Africa's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma (sic) has identified the country's foreign policy objectives as;
*The promotion of democratisation and the rejection of human rights abuses;
*The prevention of conflict and the peaceful resolution of disputes; and
*The advancement of sustainable development and the alleviation of poverty (Dlamini 1999). This embodies the logic of the African Renaissance, which Mbeki sees as being carried forward by Nepad (Gelb 2002)..." (Claude Kabemba, The State of the Nation - South Africa, 2007, edited by Sakhela Buhlungu, John Daniel, Roger Southall & Jessica Lutchman, page 536).
It is clear from what Claude Kabemba affirmed almost five years ago, and as set out so persuasively by former SA Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma herself more than twelve years ago in her very famous 1999 Address to the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA, Johannesburg), that Friedman's claims are erroneous.
The truth is that the very decision by our Government to put forward the candidature of Dlamini-Zuma is part of the determination of our country to "developing a programme for contributing to the continent", as Friedman puts it. It's all an unending work-in-progress. This is in addition to the creation of SA Development Agency that will incorporate the Africa Renaissance Fund, and the ongoing financial support by our Government for the AU NEPAD programmes across Africa. (See President Jacob Zuma, State of the Nation Address, Cape Town, 2012).
There is no doubt, in this regard, that Dlamini-Zuma and former President Thabo Mbeki would be the best candidates our country could offer to be the AU Commission Chairman.
Now that the Government has resolved that Dlamini-Zuma should continue to vie for the AU Commission top position at the next AU Summit in Lilongwe, Malawi in June, it's a decision that we South Africans should work hard to support and to see triumph.
It was therefore surprising to read the Politicsweb statement of Graham McIntosh, the Congress of the People (COPE) MP, albeit issued in his personal capacity, entitled "Why Dlamini-Zuma is the wrong person for AU Chair."
McIntosh makes the astonishing assertion that "Africa needs her views as Chairman of the AU Commission like a hole in its hole."
He further asks the highly controversial and. rhetorical question:
"Why is Zuma hell-bent in pursuing the Chairmanship of the AU Commission for South Africa and installing one of his former wives?"
What does the fact that Dlamini-Zuma is one of President Zuma's "former wives" got to do with her candidature for the AU Commission Chair?
McIntosh would do well to remember what the political and social analyst, Eusebius McKaiser, once wrote in his insightful and incisive article entitled "Singular truths about the practice of having many wives":
McKaiser then wrote:
"As for Jacob Zuma, we have enough reasons to pray that he doesn't become our next president. His addiction to wives is not one of them", (08 February 2009, Sunday Times).
In the same vein, McIntosh may be having many reasons to pray that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma should not become the AU Commission's Chairman. But that she is the former wife of President Jacob Zuma cannot and should not be one of them.
McIntosh is however right to raise his serious concerns about the suitability and electability Dlamini-Zuma, even though he highly over-rates his passion for doing so, at the expense of his limited command of the actual factual picture.
As for Dlamini-Zuma's role in fighting Thabo Mbeki Aids denialism, McIntosh is well advised to bear in mind the following revelations by William Mervin Gumede, the author of the Mbeki biography entitled "Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the soul of the ANC" (2005).
Firstly, William Gumede wrote the following about Dlamini-Zuma:
"...former health minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told Mbeki privately that his stance was undermining not only the government's own policy, but his presidency...At an NEC meeting in Johannesburg, Dlamini-Zuma and Shepherd Mdladlana cautiously warned that Mbeki's high-profile international advisory panel on AIDS was adding to confusion over the official AIDS message. They couched their arguments in a way that spared Mbeki from direct criticism, emphasising that the government's message was not being effectively conveyed. They also warned that AIDS had the potential to undermine the ANC's efforts in the 2000 local elections, given that opposition parties and civil movements were threatening to make AIDS, as well as slow social delivery to the poor, central campaign issues." (Page 165).
As for McIntosh's bold, but egregiously inaccurate, statement that Africa needs Dlamini-Zuma's "views as Chairman of the AU Commission like a hole in its head", William Mervin Gumede sheds this light in his Mbeki biography about the rest of Africa's perceptions and views about Dlamini-Zuma:
"Though her domestic reputation is that of being abrasive, she has forced the respect of her counterparts throughout Africa, where foreign policy is the traditional terrain of some of the continent's hardest men. Dlamini-Zuma is nothing if not tough..." (Page 320, Ibid).
(Mr Graham McIntosh, what we South Africans know though is that since its founding in 2008, it is COPE that has terribly disappointed and behaved like it has "a hole in its head".)
But in all fairness to McIntosh, he did concede that Dlamini-Zuma's term as a Foreign Minister (1999-2008) was "great".
He is also right to point to some of the less salubrious aspects of Dlamini-Zuma's term as SA's Health Minister.
In this context, there is no doubt that "her tenure as Minister of Health was controversial. She was blamed for spending excessively on an Aids play, Sarafina II, and her fight to make medicine accessible to the poor provoked pharmaceutical companies' ire." (Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Great South Africans, BBC, page 208, 2004).
But I submit that her tenure as SA Foreign Minister was far more than "great". It was exceptional and transformational.
It is easy to underestimate the bad shape the Department of Foreign Affairs was in when Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma took over in 1999.
In this regard Greg Mills, in an article entitled "Prospects for 2000 and Beyond", wrote the following about the department of Foreign Affairs:
"Nearly five years after the end of isolation, the portfolio is seen as one of the worst performing in government. There have been many questions asked in the Republic about the country's foreign policy direction and progress, and the role of political leadership. South Africa's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alfred Nzo, has consistently been ranked as one of the poorest performers in the cabinet." (After Mandela - The 1999 South African Elections, edited by JE Spence, page 88).
And the New York Times' Donald G. McNeil. Jr. had earlier on provided his two-pence worth opinion on the prospects of SA's official foreign policy by stating that "with an economy about the size of Belgium's and a location just north of Antarctica, South Africa isn't really positioned to be a major-leaguer in international diplomacy." (New York Times article entitled "South Africa's Foreign Policy: A Tough Balancing Act, 03 January 1997).
To assess where our country's foreign relations and internal departmental transformation were by the time Dlamini-Zuma left the Foreign Affairs portfolio in 2008 is to bear pleasant witness to a remarkable achievement by a national woman Cabinet Minister "in charge of the whole world", as former President Thabo Mbeki sometimes jokingly put it.
But of course Dlamini-Zuma is no angel, although for long she was the diplomatic Cinderella of our local media.
In one of the most frank and rarest assessment of Dlamini-Zuma ever provided, Richard Calland, in his seminal book, "Anatomy of South Africa: Who Holds Power?", did not pull punches on her.
He wrote about Dlamini-Zuma:
"...Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has an abundance of raw intelligence, but is about as diplomatic as the proverbial bull in a china shop", and that "...she lacks the composure and self-confidence of a Black Consciousness leader." (Page 276).
(In passing, and whatever the veracity, or otherwise, of Richard Calland's 'pop-psycho' character analysis of Dlamini-Zuma, she would do well to take to heart what Daso Moonsammy once said about the legendary ANC icon and struggle stalwart, Walter Sisulu: "Your calm and collected approach during moments of crisis and your ability to reflect so much warmth and love for the underdog - you showed so much affection for the neglected and uncared folks." (Elinor Sisulu, "Walter & Albertina Sisulu - In Our Lifetime", page 554)).
The tasteless and inconsiderate dancing, singing and high-fives by Dlamini-Zuma and her official entourage at the news that the AU Commission Chairman, Jean Ping, failed to get two third majority when he remained the sole candidate in the final round of voting at the last AU Summit, perhaps vindicates Calland's assertion that Dlamini-Zuma "is about as diplomatic as the proverbial bull in a china shop." (Read also Mandy Rossouw's article "SA's in a spin over AU post", carried by City Press of 05 February 2012).
Although William Mervin Gumede wrote that "Dlamini-Zuma is nothing if not tough", (Ibid), Richard Calland, reveals that when Thabo Mbeki fired Jacob Zuma, the former husband of Dlamini-Zuma, from his Cabinet as Deputy President in June 2005, Mbeki "did not even find time to contact Dlamini-Zuma to inform her of his decision...According to a presidential advisor who was very close to the action at the time of the decision, Dlamini-Zuma 'literally cried, literally cried (sic) for days, she was so shocked'." (Ibid, page 53).
So it is clear that Dlamini-Zuma does possess, and can occasionally reveal, a softer and tender side. At some difficult and emotional moments in her life, she can become a cry-baby, just like the rest of us. This quality, which is not at all a weakness, makes her, in the event she becomes the AU Commission Chairman, to be supremely suited to empathise and relate, viscerally, to the myriad of tragic challenges and situations that continue to define many parts of Africa's coalface even today.
There is no doubt, as Abbey Makoe puts in the article "Dlamini-Zuma would have saved the AU", that she "has contributed immensely to the democratisation of the new South Africa." (Pretoria News, 02 February 2012). And over the nine years she was the country's Foreign Minister (1999-2008), Dlamini-Zuma contributed immensely to the evolution of SA's foreign policy and diplomatic conception and practice, including SA's Africa and AU policies.
As the Chairman of the OAU/AU Ministerial Meeting in Durban in 2002, where the AU was inaugurated, Dlamini-Zuma played a pivotal role as one of the Ministerial Founders of the then brand-new AU.
The no-nonsense, businesslike and tough manner with which she chaired and conducted deliberations at this the OAU/AU Ministerial session in Durban in 2002 is still spoken about with admiration by many African AU diplomats across the continent. Many to this day continue to claim that the AU Ministerial Meeting sessions she chaired in Durban were the most focused, disciplined, well-organised, intellectually stimulating and punctual in all the history of the previous OAU and the subsequent AU.
That Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is fit for purpose to be the next AU Commission Chairman, there can be no doubt. In fact, were she to be elected to be the AU Commission chairman at next AU Summit in Malawi in June this year, it would be an enormous loss to South Africa's national governance and domestic politics, whilst clearly representing a massive and hugely positive gain for the whole of Africa, and the AU Commission specifically.
But what will it take for South Africa and SADC to overcome the votes-deficit Dlamini-Zuma suffered, and still suffers, in her very tight contest with Jean Ping for the top AU Commission job?
And to what end are South Africa and SADC really pushing so hard to have one of their own to be the Alpha Woman at the Addis Ababa-based AU Commission?
Is it just a diplomatic ego-trip? Is it, as Steven Friedman suggests, just a search for "status", with no vision and no clear goals in sight?
Or could it be that the current Jacob Zuma-led SA Government has completely forgotten the wise counsel of SA's former Deputy President (19994-1999) and former President (1999-2008), Thabo Mbeki, contained in his memorable Address to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)'s Ministerial Meeting in Durban, SA, in August-September 1998? Thabo Mbeki then said: "A slight turn by the sleeping elephant, to make itself more comfortable, can result in the complete annihilation of the entire universe of a colony of ants."
In his Preface to the German edition of his classic, "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte", Karl Marx used the example of how the celebrated French author and novelist, Victor Hugo, treated the personality of Napoleon Bonaparte in his book, "Napoleon the Little", to caution against the unfortunate tendency to analyse the role of great personalities at the expense of "antecedent historical development."
We ourselves should not fall into that intellectual trap when undertaking an analysis of the viability of Dlamini-Zuma's candidature for the top AU Commission post.
It is thus imperative to locate and contextualise the candidature of Dlamini-Zuma for the AU Commission Chair beyond her personality, so that the candidature is viewed against broader and bigger African "antecedent historical development", as Karl Marx would put it.
As the SA Government allows the bitter defeat of Dlamini-Zuma at the hands of Jean Ping in the first round of their contest for the AU Commission chairmanship to sink in and to sober it up a bit, and as it devises sophisticated fight-back strategies and tactics for this continuing and vital contest at the next AU Summit in Lilongwe, Malawi, South Africans should remember what Henry Kissinger revealed to the world about the Washington-based African diplomats of the mid-1970s:
"On 21 April, 1976, two days before I left for Africa to launch the diplomacy that would lead to majority rule in Rhodesia, I met with the African ambassadors stationed in Washington...They had no illusions about the grammar of staying in power; politics, in their view, was not a profession for weaklings. In private conversations, they rarely used the anti-Western rhetoric with which they established their credentials within the Nonaligned Movement." (Henry Kissinger, "The Years of Renewal - The Concluding Volume of His Memoirs", page 907).
It is this schizophrenic, split-personality nature that undergirds many an African diplomat, (i.e to promise and declare one thing in public and in bilateral talks with African pivotal states and regional 'hegemons' like South Africa, whilst reversing and adopting contrarian positions in private, and behind closed doors, in bilateral discussions with Western powers, such as France, the USA and the UK), which makes it almost impossible for anyone in SA or SADC to pronounce with any degree of certainty as to whether Dlamini-Zuma is truly guaranteed the AU votes that will propel her to the final triumph over Jean Ping next June, when 'pledges' and 'commitments' to support Dlamini-Zuma can be so easily exchanged by these same 'lumpen and rent-seeking' African diplomats for continuing foreign aid and budgetary pledges from powerful Western powers.
In my Politicsweb article entitled "Economic Diplomacy in South Africa", I pointed out that the majority of African states are "lumpen, dependent, failing, and rent-seeking." This behaviour flourishes especially during elections to powerful position in African continental bodies.
But the real challenge before our national and formal diplomatic establishment is really whether South Africa continues to entertain "...illusions about the grammar..." (Kissinger) of African diplomatic behaviour and conduct, to our national detriment and embarrassment.
In the short to medium term, there is not much that South Africa's diplomacy can do to undermine, and change for the better, this unfortunate African diplomatic culture and practice of unashamedly putting a price tag around the national diplomatic positions of individual rent-seeking AU members.
The only way around this conundrum for our diplomats is, I suggest, to revisit the lessons of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) between 1998-1999, when it too was riven and torn apart down the middle by the protracted and unseemly contest between Mike Moore (New Zealand) and Dr Supachai (Thailand), both of who were vying for the top position of the WTO Director General.
In the end, to bring these debilitating divisions to an end, the WTO adopted a "Compromise Package" on the two candidates (Moore and Supachai), which boiled down to WTO General Council agreeing to appoint the two candidates for a non-extendable (successive) three-years each tenure at the head of the WTO (1999-2002 and 2002-2005). Mike Moore was allowed to serve first, and was immediately succeeded by Dr Supachai. In addition, the WTO General Council appointed an Ad Hoc Committee to undertake a thorough review of the WTO rules governing the appointment of its DG, so that this embarrassing debacle over the appointment of its DG was would never be repeated in the future.
Maybe South Africa's formal diplomatic establishment should consider recommending and taking a similar "Compromise Package" for the appointment of the next AU Commission Chairman, which would seek to accommodate both Dlamini-Zuma and Jean Ping to the next AU Summit in Lilongwe, Malawi.
The abiding virtue of such a compromise could be to transform the contest for the next AU Commission chairman from being the current source of deep divisions and bickering among AU diplomatic leaders, to becoming a vector of all-round AU unity and coherence at its next Summit.
Even better, Dlamini-Zuma and Jean Ping could be given a ten-years tenure (jointly, but be made to swap their positions after five years, with the one becoming the head or deputy of the other, taking a cue from the Putin-Medvedev very successful 'Tandem-Leadership" arrangement. The position of a Deputy to the AU commission Chairman could be created for this special purpose. In the meantime, an AU Ad Hoc Ministerial Committee could be appointed by the AU Summit in Malawi to review all the rules governing the election of the AU Commission Chairman, with the aim of opening the contest up to big African states like SA, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Sudan, Algeria and DRC as well.
But the legitimate question still remains unanswered: Why does SA need the AU Commission's top job to implement its vision for Africa? Put differently, what is it in the position of AU Commission Chairman which will add to SA's formidable formal and informal diplomatic arsenal, beyond status and prestige that come with leading an Africa-wide continental body?
And how does SA address the pervasive and ruinous perception across Africa that we seek to dominate and monopolise all the important and strategic positions and events around Africa, whether it is the FIFA Soccer World Cup, IBSA, G20, BRICS, our desire to serve as a permanent, veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, and now our unflinching determination to occupy the top AU Commission post, even when our esteemed candidate was defeated and clobbered during the first contest in January this year?
The powerful case for South Africa's leadership role in Africa was perhaps best articulated by Greg Mills in "From Idealism through Realism to Globalism?", when he stated:
"...the continent's weaknesses throw into relief one critical strength possessed by South Africa - its position as a regional power, not just in economic and military/security terms, but in the wealth of human capital and political status, even if the latter is only grudgingly acknowledged elsewhere in Africa. To capitalise on these strengths, South Africa will in all probability have to provide leadership in Africa, which will inevitably be accompanied by responsibilities along with political challenges and costs." (Greg Mills, "The Wired Model: South Africa, Foreign Policy and Globalisation", page 350)
If, as Mills cogently suggests, the objective and material basis for SA's aspirations for the continental leadership role is thus defined, the next crucial question would be: If the "Compromise Package" (strategy) I suggested above for the election of the AU Commission Chairman, (whose key merit is to avoid or defer another bruising contest between Dlamini-zuma and Jean Ping), is acceptable, what would constitute, in the circumstances, the right diplomatic tactics to attain SA's desired outcome in this democratic but destabilizing AU contest?
My own view is that it is in the department of our diplomatic tactics that our campaign in support of Dlamini-Zuma has been the weakest and most ineffective. We have fumbled from one incredible tactical error to an even more serious and worse one.
The first major tactical error on our part was to completely misunderstand how Western imperialism, in the form of USA, UK, French and EU interests operate in Africa in the post-Gaddafi era. That is why there was a misguided but failed attempt to embarrass French-speaking Africa from its historical close association with its past colonial master, France, and into voting for Dlamini-Zuma.
Whilst we are intensifying our close bilateral collaboration with France in the trade, nuclear energy and cultural sectors, we expect French-speaking Africa to reduce their historical neo-colonial dependence on France, and behind their back, blame France's undue and 'inimical' influence over them for the defeat of Dlamini-Zuma at the hands of Jean Ping.
It is clear that our diplomats have a wholly misguided and ill-informed understanding and appreciation of post-modern imperialism, and that, as a starting point to addressing this knowledge-deficit, they would do well to acquaint themselves with Eric Wellenberg's highly acclaimed and globally influential eponymous book, "Post-Modern Imperialism." They would then quickly realise that the much-feared and much-maligned Western imperialism is as adept at commanding influence over West Africa (and the rest of Africa) from European, Japanese and USA capitals, as it is from SA cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town, and that practically all of Africa outside South Africa's national borders is, to varying degrees, at the pitiful mercy of post-modern imperialism. They would then hopefully spend less precious time coming up with yarns about imaginary 'influences' for the defeat of Dlamini-Zuma at the hands of Jean Ping.
Secondly, the reported behaviour and conduct of the Dlamini-Zuma diplomatic entourage in Addis Ababa - at the news that Jean Ping failed to garner two-thirds of the vote in the final voting round - displayed astonishing diplomatic naiveté, lack of humility, and inexplicable and hubristic arrogance that was laced with a frightening diplomatic ignorance about the AU rules, when, as reported, some of our diplomats then insisted, according to some media reports, that Jean Ping can no more occupy the AU Commission Chairman position..
Quite justifiably, Richard Calland would probably describe such a hugely embarrassing Bafana-Bafana-type ignorance of the rules of a game we are voluntarily partaking in and even seek to dominate, as being "about as diplomatic as the proverbial bull in a china shop" and as being completely "rough-edged", diplomatically speaking, (page 276, Ibid).
Thirdly, if historical big African states had an unwritten rule that they would not avail themselves for election to the Au Commission Chairman, it is not clear why SA did not first place this 'diplomatic convention' up for discussion and consensual decision by the AU Summit, before we put Dlamini-Zuma for election to the top position.
Fourthly, and most damaging, are the recent glaring inconsistencies in SA diplomatic policies towards Africa and the AU, e.g. voting for the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution 1973 on Libya, but subsequently opposing NATO's illegal aerial bombardment of Libya; initially supporting former President Gbagbo of Ivory Coast during the bloody civil war in that country, but then later switching support to the UN- and French abetted winner of the bloody civil war, the current Ivorian President Outtarra.
And lastly, there is a rich irony in that South Africa has not yet elected a woman Head of State, but is strenuously pushing for one of its woman, albeit very capable and highly experienced, to be the first woman AU Commission Chairman. If anything, the delegates at the ANC Polokwane elective conference in 2007 delivered a stunning no-confidence vote on Dlamini-Zuma, when she was defeated in her contest for the ANC Deputy President position.
Despite this overall tactical oversight, I agree with Jack Cilliers of the Institute of Security Studies (ISS, Pretoria) that "if Dlamini-Zuma wins, it will change African politics dramatically." This is because I personally believe that post-1994 South Africa is truly the only African country that has the staying power, prestige, a positive global agenda and influence, sovereign space of independent action, and the resources and national political will, to stand up to non-African 'influences', from the East or West, whose involvement in Africa is not always compatible with Africa's own best interests.
Dlamini-Zuma's occupation of the AU Commission's highest office would catapult this unique South African sovereign feature into the very centre of the affairs of the AU. Such an outcome would be enormously positive, catalytic, and transformative to Africa's overall future outlook.
And it is why I commend and compliment our Government's decision that this is one African fight worth fighting. It is far more important than our previous campaign to host the FIFA World Soccer Cup, because it may possible be one of the requisite steps in changing the fortunes of Africa for the better.
In 1962, after the racist Apartheid regime had banned the liberation movement (the ANC and the PAC), and black South Africans seemed at the weakest political point ever, Nelson Mandela undertook a clandestine trip and visited several important African countries and the Head Quarters of the OAU in search of independent Africa's support for our anti-apartheid liberation struggle. The response of Africa to this request was amazing, and continued unflinching until we attained our freedom in April 1994.
And now that post-apartheid South Africa is, in turn, stronger and powerful enough to help post-199 Africa to advance its political and economic developmental agenda in the current very difficult and complicated global environment, advancing Dlamini-Zuma as a candidate for the top AU Commission post is not an unreasonable ask on the part of South Africa. It is in fact a right thing to do to return our debt and gratitude to Africa after it so warmly welcomed and embraced the then little known (outside our borders) Nelson Mandela during our country 's darkest and most menacing political hour.
But as Dlamini-Zuma and her diplomatic entourage go about the business of promoting her candidature for the top AU Commission job, we should continuously remiund them of Dlamini-Zuma's own wise words, as reported in the newly-released book, "Kader Asmal - Politics In My Blood": "We don't believe in uno duce, una voce... We are different." (Kader Asmal and Adrian Hadland, with Mouira Levy, page 197, 2011)
Madam Minister, the rest of Africa too does not and cannot be expected to accept and believe that South Africa can ever be imposed on it as "uno duce, una voce", to use your Latin expression, especially when it comes to the position of the AU Commission Chairman.
But you will win the support, confidence and universal admiration across Africa for your good-intentioned campaign to become the next AU Commission supremo, if you never forget this undying leadership quality of our universally revered icon, Nelson Mandela, that "...the essence of strong leadership is for a leader to surround himself with strong people who constantly criticise and challenge the positions and opinion of the leader." (John Battersby, Sunday independent (SA), article entitled "So what is Nelson Mandela famous for?")
Your embracing and supporting a "Compromise Package" that includes and involves Jean Ping, the current AU Commission Chairman, would be a clear indication that you have truly taken Nelson Mandela's seminal quality leadership advice to heart, instead of the bizarre diplomatic behaviour of your entourage singing, dancing and high-fiving at the sad news of the defeat of your nemesis and competitor for the top AU Commission job.
But, also remember that if everything else fails, which is outcome is not inconceivable, including in the event you utterly and completely and dismally fail to win a fair, democratic, and transparent contest with Jean Ping, despite our best collective national efforts to assist you to triumph, fall back and take succour in the words of Daso Moonsammy about our other national icon and fighter for Africa's freedom, Walter Sisulu: "Your calm and collected approach during moments of crisis and your ability to reflect so much warmth and love..." (Elinor Sisulu, "Walter & Sisulu - In Our Lifetime", page 554).
If you recall this Daso Moonsammy pearl of wisdom even in your defeat, but especially in the event of Jean Ping's defeat, then you will triumph even as you sink to the depth of a humiliating diplomatic defeat. You will then win as you lose. But, even more, you would be an eternal credit to our country's post-apartheid foreign policy. You will be a true African, Madam Minister.
Isaac Mpho Mogotsi is Executive Director of the Centre of Economic Diplomacy In Africa (CEDIA). He is also a businessman and, as a former SA diplomat, attended the AU Inaugural Summit in Durban, South Africa, in 2002.
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