By Lugenzi Kabale, The Citizen, 25th Jul 2012
This factor has been cited as the driving force of Sadc diplomats in renewing a push to oust the Gabonese diplomat from the AU helm, despite faltering of their candidate Nkosazana Zuma during the January election of the AU head.
Noted a senior diplomat in the South African Foreign ministry’s Department of International Relations:
“Most Sadc members states, particularly South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, Tanzania, Namibia and Zambia which played a key role in the southern Africa liberation struggle, were not happy with the way Jean Ping handled the Libyan bombing by Nato jets last year.”
The official said Sadc leaders felt that Libya, and in particular its charismatic leader the late Muammar Gaddaffi, was not defended by Africa through the AU.
The diplomat revealed why Sadc put into use all its diplomatic resources to defeat the Gabonese diplomat, saying:
“Gadaffi was a hero to South African liberation fighters. He offered unlimited military and financial support to them during the struggle. So when they saw their hero being hit, with the AU Commission deliberately holding back any diplomatic support to save him, they waited for the right time to come to punish Jean Ping.”
The South African senior diplomat’s argument was supported by the minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Bernard Membe, who gave details of the reason for Jean Ping being shown the door come rain or sunshine.
“Colonel Gaddafi and, by extension, Libya did everything to get the AU where it is today. How come such a dear son of African being left to fight alone a machination of foreign forces in the name of Nato?” Wondered the minister during an interview in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.
Like the South African senior diplomat, Mr Membe reiterated Colonel Gaddafi’s material, financial and diplomatic support to African freedom fighters.
It is understood that at the time Gaddafi’s Libya, Nigeria under different leaders like General Obasanjo, President Shehu Shaghari, General Mohammed Buhari and later General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, Tanzania, Zambia and Ghana under Jerry Rawlings were supporting liberation movements in Nato member states.
Their planes bombed Gaddafi who had provided financial, military and moral support to liberation movements fighting against the apartheid South African regime, Ian Smith’s former South Rhodesia and the Portuguese in Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau.
Mr Membe further named other ‘sins’ for the defeated former AU Commission President as failure to allow the heads of states and governments to observe a minute of silence in honour of the late Gaddafi and former Guinea Bissau President Malam Bacai Sanha.
“It was outrageous that he did not allow heads of states and governments to stand up in silence for a minute in honour of the late Colonel Gaddafi and Sanha. Yet he is the one who, during this session, has allowed the same to stand in honour of Malawi’s Bakili Muluzi,” argued the minister.
Giving more details on Sadc’s action of taking full charge to dethrone Mr Ping, Mr Membe argued that in the past Sadc sponsored candidates from Zambia and Namibia to the top AU seat, but several member states objected. They said the two countries did not command the required respect in the continent for their diplomats to occupy the top AU executive post.
It was this fact that saw Sadc come up with its candidate in the name of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Besides being at the frontline in transforming the former Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to the current AU, she was former South African President Thabo Mbeki’s right hand woman as the country’s Foreign minister.
“When we seconded a Namibian for the post they said no as Namibia was not match the top AU seat. Again Sadc came up with a Zambian candidate and we were told the same. So we brought up the biggest gun, Ms Nkosazana who they again objected to saying South Africa was too big, too influential and had big muscles,” noted Mr Membe. He added that this time around they stuck to their guns and decided to face their opponents head-on.
A more interesting aspect in the battle to oust Ping was the role played by President Jakaya Kikwete.
The role seemed to be very valuable and in diplomatic cycles in Addis Ababa it was said that he and his Foreign minister Bernard Membe had played the role equivalent to a play maker.
This fact was proved by Malawi’s Vice President Khumbo Kachali and South African International Relations minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
When approached by The Citizen to state the secret behind Ms Nkosazana’s victory within the Sadc bloc, the minister referred the paper to President Jakaya Kikwete.
“I do not know the secret behind Ms Nkosazana’s victory. It was the strategy of (your) Tanzania President, go and ask him; he will give you all details,” confirmed the minister.
The fact played out again when President Jakaya Kikwete met Malawi Vice President Kachali on the sidelines of the AU summit at which The Citizen was represented.
“We are very glad with Ms Nkosazana’s victory. Personally, I did not believe that the Sadc candidate would emerge victorious after the first round when she had a slim lead of two votes,” hinted the Malawian Vice President. However they were always waiting for President Kikwete’s instructions on what direction to take in the subsequent voting rounds.
“We lost no hope on Ms Nkosazana’s victory as we sat attentively waiting for your guidance on how to maneuver in the next voting bouts. Mr President I appreciate that you guided us well and now we celebrate the Sadc candidate’s victory,” summed up Mr Kachali.
But Ms Nkosazana’s defeat of Jean Ping did not come in a silver plate; rather it resulted from a pitched, covert and diplomatic fight.
The voting trend proved that the battle was not soft as in the first round. Ms Nkosazana scooped 27 votes against 24, hence taking a narrow lead of three votes.
In round two Ms Nkosazana gained two mote votes to register 29 votes while Mr Ping lost two more hence remaining with 22.
It was in the third round that the Sadc candidate released all her of her power of attracting votes when she garnered 33 in contrast to Ping’s 18.
The fourth and final round was like a confirmation for the South African diplomat. She bagged 37, Mr Ping got nothing and two votes rejected him categorically with a big ‘no’ as 12 votes were spoilt.
It was past midnight on Sunday July 15 when Ms Nkosazana was declared winner of the titans’ contest.