S. Africa's Dlamini-Zuma becomes first woman to head African Union Commission
7/15/2012 11:20:01 PM -
ADDIS ABABA (AFP) - South Africa's Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has won a closely fought vote to become the head of the African Union Commission, replacing Jean Ping of Gabon, AU officials said Sunday.
She becomes the first woman ever to hold the post.
"She got 37 (votes), three points more than the (required) majority," a top AU official told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding she had won on the fourth round of voting. South African officials confirmed the result.
Dlamini-Zuma's win follows her challenge six months ago to unseat Ping, the former commission chairman, which ended in deadlock after neither won the required two-thirds of the vote, which left Ping in the post.
Members of the South African delegation smiled and congratulated one another as they filed out of the conference hall.
"It's good for southern Africa. We (in southern Africa) never had this job," a delegate from Zimbabwe told AFP with a broad grin.
Dlamini-Zuma is an experienced diplomat. A veteran of the fight against apartheid, she has served as health and foreign minister in South Africa. She was formerly married to South African President Jacob Zuma.
Jakkie Cilliers of the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies told AFP how Dlamini-Zuma's score had crept up from one round of voting to the next.
"She got ahead in the first round and after that the momentum kicked in," said Cilliers. "The heads of state wanted a decision."
Dlamini-Zuma's win had brought "clarity as to who's in charge" at the AU, after six months of deadlock over the leadership issue, he added.
But some analysts say South African has violated an unwritten tradition that continental powerhouses do not run candidates for the post, instead leaving smaller nations to take the job -- and that this had sparked bad feeling.
Before the vote however, Dlamini-Zuma played down concerns that the vote could divide the AU.
"I don't think the continent will be polarised," she said.
The winner would "make sure they work with everybody, irrespective of where and who they voted for," she added.