SADC concerned by Jean Ping's statement

Phandu TC Skelemani says AU Commission Chairperson abused his position

Statement by the Honourable Phandu TC Skelemani, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Botswana, on Dr Jean Ping's response to an article in The Sunday Times, delivered on behalf of Southern African Development Community (SADC)

12 Jul 2012

1. Thank you, Mr President, for giving me this opportunity.

2. I would like to raise a matter of grave concern to my delegation and the Southern Africa region. We were alarmed to note that on Tuesday 10 July this week, a press statement was issued by Dr. Jean Ping, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, in response to an article published in The Sunday Times of South Africa, on 8 July 2012 titled: "At Last, SA may get its woman into AU post,"

3. Our main concern, Chairperson, is that in responding to a media article of a personal nature, the AU Chairperson chose to use the AU resources as clearly indicated by the use of the official letterhead and the official website to distribute his statement to media houses. By so doing, this makes his response an official statement of the African Union. Is this part of his mandate as the Chairperson of our organisation? Certainly not.

4. In our view, the nature of this issue is about a campaign for the post of AU Chairperson, which is a personal matter, and so should have been addressed using personal resources as is normal practice. We are therefore, shocked and appalled by the blatant abuse of his office and resources of the AU Commission. 

5. Furthermore, Dr. Ping's response when carefully studied is merely a campaign statement, and I wish to quote some of his expressions to demonstrate this point. He says: "May I seize this opportunity to reiterate categorically and unequivocally that I am running for re-election as chairperson of the African Union Commission. I am in the race... and would appreciate the opportunity to finish the work we have been doing in the last four years. I am still in this race and gratefully look forward to the wholesome support of the majority of the leaders of the AU Member States." Close quote.

6. We are also seriously concerned that the content and tone of Dr. Ping's statement amounts to a direct attack on a Member State of the African Union by the Chairperson of this esteemed organisation.

7. Even more disturbing, is when a Member State is quoted on the position undertaken when collective decisions were made at the AU or the United Nations (UN). By divulging such information, this has a potential of sowing seeds of animosity and division among AU Member States.

8. It is our considered view, Chairperson, that this conduct is in violation of the provisions and spirit of the Statutes of the AU Commission, in particular:

a. Article 4(1) under Obligations in the Statutes of the Commission, which stipulate that Members of the Commission "shall refrain from any action which may reflect adversely on their position as international officials responsible only to the Union."

b. Similarly, the same Statutes stipulate, under the Functions, that the Commission shall: "represent the Union and defend its interests under the guidance of and as mandated by the Assembly and the Executive Council - Article 2(a); and "coordinate and monitor the implementation of the decisions of the other organs of the Union in close collaboration with the PRC and report regularly to the Executive Council" - Article 2(g).

9. In this regard, the conduct by the Chairperson of the AU, namely abuse of AU resources, attack on and divulging information of a Member State is unprecedented, and can bring disrepute to the integrity of the African Union. This therefore calls for an apology on his part, and retraction of the statement through the same medium used. 

Statement issued by Department of International Relations and Cooperation, July 12 2012

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