ADDIS ABABA — South Africa's Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will be the next chairperson of the African Union Commission. The South African Home Affairs Minister defeated incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon in an election on Sunday at the AU summit in Addis Ababa.
Dlamini-Zuma will take over the African Union's top post after winning an election in a fourth round of voting. The South African won 37 votes from African leaders in a secret ballot at AU headquarters, more than the two-thirds threshold needed to win.
Benin's President Boni Yayi, who also holds the rotating chair of the AU, welcomed the results. “Now we have a president of the AU Commission, Madame Zuma, who will preside over the destiny of this institution," he said.
Dlamini-Zuma and incumbent AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping, competed for the post at the last AU summit in January, but neither candidate received enough votes to be declared the winner.
Dlamini-Zuma will be the first woman to lead the African Union, and the first South African.
Speaking to reporters before the vote, Dlamini-Zuma said that, if elected, she would spend her first few days in office determining how she could improve the AU. “I don't think my contribution is about doing different things from the incumbent. But the contribution I would like to make is to look at the organization and see how we can strengthen our organization, so that it works efficiently, effectively and better," she said.
Dlamini-Zuma candidacy as a South African was somewhat controversial. Asked whether her election would violate an unspoken tradition that disapproves of leaders from the continent's biggest countries heading the AU, Dlamini-Zuma said she did not see a problem with her election. “I don't see the connection between me as an individual who wants to make a contribution to this organization to my country's size. Really, I don't see the connection," she said.
Dlamini-Zuma will assume office as the African Union takes on several regional crises, including an Islamist militant insurgency in northern Mali and a rebellion in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.