2012-07-16 11:56:51

First woman elected as head of African Union Commission

(Vatican Radio) Doctor and diplomat Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa won yesterday’s vote to become the first female head of the African Union (AU) Commission. The ex-wife of South African President Jacob Zuma defeated incumbent and rival Jean Ping of Gabon, who had headed the steering body of the 54-member organisation since 2008.

Vatican Radio spoke with Günter Simmermacher, editor of southern Africa’s Catholic weekly The Southern Cross, about the significance of Dlamini-Zuma’s election as head of the AU Commission.

“It’s quite significant,” he said, “that a woman should be leading the party in a country where patriarch is still very much the norm.”

In addition to being the first woman to the position of chairperson for the AU Commission, Dlamini-Zuma is also the first to come from southern Africa.
“It is also quite interesting,” continued Simmermacher, “that it is now an Anglophone chairperson running the AU rather than a Francophone.”

With regard to her qualifications, Simmermacher told Vatican Radio that “she has a very good record as a minister in the South African cabinets starting in 1994, with the cabinet of Nelson Mandela where she was a health minister. Unfortunately, she presided over the legalization of abortion at that time.”

Dlamini-Zuma served as a foreign minister under the government of Thabo Mbeki. She also served as Minister of Home Affairs in the Cabinet of her former husband President Jacob Zuma, where “she has been credited with turning things around from a department that was in utter shambles to something that has some sort of semblance of non-corrupt workability.”

Dr Dlamini-Zuma, he continues, is a “woman of strong principles. She has very much an independent mind… She gets things done.”

Listen here to Ann Schneible’s full interview with Southern Cross editor Günter Simmermacher: RealAudioMP3

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