By Professor Matodzi
Harare, January 31, 2014 – Zimbabwe’s octogenarian leader, President Robert Mugabe is set to score a feat if he eventually takes over the chairmanship of the African Union(AU) next year as he will be aged 91.
Mugabe, who turns 90 years next month was elected the first vice-chairperson of the African Union Bureau, the continental body’s supreme organ of the African Union during the 22nd Ordinary Session of the AU General Assembly held in Ethiopia this week. The body is tasked with stirring the agenda of the organisation.
According to the state-run Herald newspaper, Mugabe’s election to the post positions him to assume the AU chairmanship next year as he is now eligible to contest for the chairmanship.
If his elevation to lead the continental body succeeds, that would mean that the Zanu PF leader would take charge of the continental body aged 91, a feat which could have been rarely achieved in the history of the 54 member bloc.
Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi hailed the appointment of Mugabe as an expression of confidence in his leadership.
“It is the growth of confidence in Zimbabwe. Secondly, the First Vice Chair normally becomes the Chair of the African Union. So, chairmanship of the AU will come from Southern Africa next year, meaning Zimbabwe is in the running,” Mumbengegwi said.Mugabe,turning 90 in a few weeks time will be at the helm of SADC later this year.
The AU is the successor organisation to the OAU, with greater powers to promote African economic, social, and political integration, and a stronger commitment to democratic principles.
However, the road ahead is likely to be a bumpy one for Mugabe if the European Union insists on blocking the Zanu PF leader from attending the Africa-Europe Summit scheduled for April. Media reports say the EU is attempting to block Mugabe from attending the Africa -EU summit as he is subject to the bloc’s travel ban.
The EU imposed targeted travel sanctions on the Zanu PF leader and several of his lieutenants in 2002 in protest against human rights excesses and a democratic deficit.
In 2007, there was controversy about the attendance of Mugabe to the Africa-EU Summit, in Portugal because of his placement on an EU travel ban.
European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, defended inviting Mugabe to attend the summit while the then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown boycotted and was represented by Baroness Amos.