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South Africa Nominates Dlamini-Zuma to Chair AU Commission

October 10, 2011

(Updates with analyst comment starting in fourth paragraph.)

Oct. 10 (Bloomberg) -- South Africa nominated its home affairs minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to chair the African Union Commission, signaling that it intends playing a more assertive role within the group.

The commission runs the day-to-day affairs of the AU, while a largely ceremonial presidency rotates between the leaders of its 54 members on a six-monthly basis. A new commission is due to be appointed when the group holds its next bi-annual summit in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, in January.

Nominations for the post of chairman closed last month. The only other candidate is Jean Ping, Gabon’s former foreign minister, who has held the post since 2008, the Cape Town-based Cape Times newspaper reported earlier today, without saying where it got the information.

South Africa is “making a statement about the role it seeks to play in the AU,” Tom Wheeler, a South African diplomat between 1961 and 2003 who now works as an analyst at the independent South African Institute for International Affairs, said in a phone interview from Johannesburg. “Up to now South Africa has been very careful not to do anything that could be perceived as hegemonic. Dlamini-Zuma’s nomination could be seen as doing the opposite.”

Since emerging from apartheid in 1994, South Africa’s government has largely refrained from using its weight as Africa’s biggest economy to drive the continent’s foreign policy, frequently deferring to positions taken by the AU.

‘Tricky to Predict’

A medical doctor, Dlamini-Zuma served as South Africa’s foreign minister between 1999 and 2009, when she was appointed to her current post. She is the ex-wife of President Jacob Zuma.

“I can confirm we have nominated her,” Clayson Monyela, spokesman for the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, said by phone from Pretoria today.

Calls to the African Union’s offices in Addis Ababa went unanswered today.

“I think Ping has been an efficient head of the AU,” Wheeler said. “It’s tricky to try and predict who will win.”

--Editors: Ben Holland, Karl Maier.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Cohen in Cape Town at;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at

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