During the end of July, former South African foreign affairs minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, was overwhelmingly elected the chairperson of the AU Commission, effectively putting the superintending of the resolution of the nagging Harare crisis into her plate, together with her former husband and South African President Jacob Zuma, the SADC appointed mediator in the Zimbabwe conflict.
Also providing an intrigue into the whole AU-SADC mediation process, if not complicating it, is the fact that the couple’s daughter, Gugulethu Zuma, is married to Wesley Ncube, the son of the leader of the smaller faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Welshman Ncube, giving credence to assertions the mediation could turn out to be an in-laws affair.
So there are fears the mediation could be decided over family breakfast, lunch or dinner with the election of Dlamini-Zuma last week completing the triumvirate.
But those that are privy to the new AU Commission chairperson argue that despite the complications caused by the personal relations; Nkosazana Zuma is considered a diplomat.
They argue that it has to be recalled that negotiations and the resultant Global Political Agreement (GPA) by Zanu (PF) and the two MDCs happened when she was SA’s foreign affairs minister as she was intimately involved in the process by virtue of her office.
Her position during that time was seen as that of scepticism towards the then opposition. The critics say it will be interesting to see if these views have changed.
Under Mbeki, she allegedly successfully managed to wrest the Zimbabwe problem from the purview of the AU, quarantining Zimbabwe as a SADC matter. Critics say this is likely to be her attitude towards conflicts in different regions of the continent.
But others doubt her pedigree, pointing out that during the Thabo Mbeki era she gave an impression of a Yes Person, someone who would do anything for the leadership of the moment.
Bekithemba Mpofu, a political analyst based in the United Kingdom, said given the complications in AU, Zuma-Dlamini, was bound to be an ineffective chairperson on political issues, someone who will try to please and appease some African leaders that ensured she landed the AC commission post.
“However, to her credit, her history is littered with efficient operational management, so we should see more operational effectiveness from a Franco polarisation of African Organs (depending on the Organ AU Chair of the moment) to more integration and l think that will be her legacy. If you peep into history, you will realise
that most African organs e.g. African Union and the African Development Bank are more sympathetic to Franco tribal realities and for some reason the Franco nations continue to be more powerful particularly operationally and their heads block effective involvement from the more educated east, south and central Africa,” he said.
Mpofu doubted if Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma could change African politics but was quick to add that as a tested political administrator, the continent should expect a more level playing field for most Africans in the African Union.
Psychology Maziwisa, a Harare-based political analyst, said she has to amplify Africa’s position on several international issues like the need for political and economic independence in Africa.
Maziwisa said the new AU Commission chair would be well advised to press for the wholesale and unconditional lifting of sanctions in Zimbabwe.
“She has got to demonstrate that, under her watch, what happened in Libya will not happen again anywhere in Africa. She has also got to work towards the promotion of mutually beneficial business relations between Africa and the rest of the world. She must make clear Africa’s readiness to assist in matters of world peace and security, provided this is not done to advance narrow political interests,” he said.
Tapera Kapuya, a Zimbabwe-based in Australia, said Dlamini-Zuma’s election to the AU chair would unlikely see any significant shifts in the AU’s approach towards Zimbabwe.
Kapuya said the circumstances of her election made her a lame-duck chair, at least in the short term.
He said her election unsettled two unwritten rules in the AU, firstly that an incumbent should be allowed to serve two terms without challenge and; secondly that the major continental powers not contest but leave the position for smaller states.
“By choosing to contest, Dlamini-Zuma and South Africa, has antagonised a number of states, not only French-speaking Africa as widely reported, but also Anglo-phone African countries such as Kenya and Nigeria which opposed SA’s candidate. This dynamic should also take into account increased suspicion to which SA has been regarded since Jacob Zuma’s election. He has not been as strong an advocate on Africa as Mbeki. Mbeki had pushed NEPAD and the African Renaissance – whereas there has not been any significant continental policy programme from Zuma – nor has there been any marked support for these initiatives during Zuma’s reign.
“Furthermore, South Africa is yet to be forgiven for its UN Security Council vote in favour of Resolution 1973 which gave effect to the NATO interventions, and eventual killing of Muamar Gadhaffi, in Libya – this against an AU resolution at the same time for an AU-led mediation effort. These factors handicap Dlamini-Zuma in her new job,” he said.
For her credit, Kapuya, said it has to be underlined that she is fearlessly independent and an Africanist in her own right.
“She is politically closer to Mbeki and his political thinking than she is to her ex-husband. It has to be remembered that in the 2007 ANC’s Polokwane Congress, she contested and lost on Mbeki’s ticket against her ex-husband, Jacob Zuma,” he said.
Apart from the Zimbabwe crisis she had to deal with several hot spots be it in the sense of eradicating poverty that is ravaging the continent, ending the wars that are threatening countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Rwanda and Uganda.
The Darfur region still has a huge problem of refugees. In Somalia, the kidnappings and lawlessness are big challenges for the AU. Swaziland is another place of interest where transition from the Kingdom to democracy is causing unnecessary sufferings in that country.
Trevor Maisiri, a political analyst with International Crisis Group, said Zuma-Dlamini has to find a way of reviving the AU out of the abyss of delegating responsibility to SADC without it being accountable and committed to the outcome.
“She also needs to help unpack the term guarantor. It is a very loose term which does not define the full responsibilities of SADC and the AU in the Zimbabwean conflict. There is need for guideline parameters of what they can and cannot do in the Zimbabwe case – that will then enable these institutions to manage expectations,” said Maisiri.
He added that since the AU election was mainly divided along the lines of francophone and Anglophone countries, Zuma has the task of ensuring that she reaches out to the francophone to assure them that she is not out for the interests of her own bloc but she has capacity and desire to be equally representative.
“She has to do that in how she structures her leadership team and in how she involves herself directly with issues that may be particular to the francophone bloc,” he said.