Transcript copy: Interaction between Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana Mashabane and media following election of African Union Commission Chairperson, African Union, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Monday 30 January 2012

Comments by Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana Mashabane

Ladies and gentlemen of the media, we are meeting with you at this juncture when we have just concluded the first and most important round of the African Union Commission elections for the post of Chairperson of the African Union. 

The outcome of this process is that the incumbent chairperson has lost the election.  In terms of the rules he had to vacate office and the current Kenyan Deputy Chairperson Mr Erastus Mwencha will become the interim chair of the Commission until the next round of elections which will in all probability take place at the next Summit in June/July 2012 scheduled to take place in Lilongwe, Malawi.

Now, after four rounds of elections, the political message that has emerged is that, African leaders want change.  This is what we think is the outcome of the first round.  The first round of the process actually determines what else goes into the election process.  This was done in a very democratic manner – open, free and fair and following the rules and guided by the Constitutive Act and rules of operation that guide such elections.

I thank you.

Questions and Answers

Question                   Minister, as the country, and perhaps as SADC, where to from here?
Answer                      (Minister Nkoana Mashabane) Following the rules of procedure and the fact that since 1963 SADC was never given the opportunity to lead this organisation, we will wait to consult with all SADC leaders because the discussions on other issues, which we came here for, still has to proceed.

We will consult but we strongly feel that from the informal discussions we have been having, SADC will field a candidate because we have never been given an opportunity to lead this organisation.

I think the message that is coming out, that I want to emphasize is that leaders are saying, the time has come and the time is now to capacitate this African Union, to strengthen it, but that that must come and must come now.  This is the loud message we are receiving.

Question                   Minister could it be the same candidate because we are hearing that she is now illegible?
Answer                      (Minister Nkoana Mashabane) The message that is very clear, if you check the rule book, is that the incumbent shall vacate and the Deputy Chair will act until the next election.  So nothing stops us from fielding the same candidate because she has shown or proven to be a formidable candidate that the incumbent could not defeat.  The incumbent could not secure a two-thirds majority after four rounds so this is very very clear that leaders of this continent want change and they want it now.

Question                   Minister, this is the first time I have witnessed such a process.  Do you have details about how countries voted in each round?
Answer                      (Minister Nkoana Mashabane) This election has defied that we should still be viewed in terms of whose former coloniser’s language we should follow.  I think that leaders of the continent have shown that they want a strong organisation irrespective of influence from former colonisers.

                                    I think I would be being very unfair to you by telling you which candidate received how many votes in each round.  The reality is that when you are an incumbent, in terms of the rules, you are required to get two-thirds of the votes to confirm you have won the elections and earned the confidence of the collective.

Question                   Minister, do you have any indications on how the candidate is feeling?  Is she disappointed, is she inclined to stand again?
Answer                      (Minister Nkoana Mashabane) I think from my side, as the Minister of International Relations and Co-operation from South Africa, this is a very very proud moment for the continent.  Since 1963 South Africa has nominated one of its best to contest these elections.  And one of our best received unanimous support from her region and that despite all odds, we stood our ground.  I think this must be a very very proud moment for us as a nation and our candidate.

                                    South Africa, informed by our foreign policy, has been very clear that we want very good cordial relations with our co-operating partners, not based on colonial relations and who colonized who.  Having defied all these odds and reached this far, I think we should be very very proud because yes, there is no rule that stops her from contesting this again and I think she has done very very well.

Question                   Minister, before the elections, South Africa was very confident Minister Dlamini Zuma would win.  What went wrong and what will South Africa do differently if we were to field her as a candidate again?
Answer                      (Minister Nkoana Mashabane) I think what went right is that we fielded a woman candidate from South Africa, and one of our very very best.  And for the first time since 1963 till date, we have never gone to a round where a female candidate has gotten so far, with all the patriarchy and all the other impediments you know too well about.  I think we should feel very proud of this and this is very good for South Africa.

                                    If SADC comes back and asks for the Minister to stand as a candidate again, we will do so gladly.

Question                   Minister, do you think this has polarized the continent?
Answer                      (Minister Nkoana Mashabane) I think it is very amazing about how we define unity.  We preach democracy, we follow the rules.  During the OAU time, I am told by those who are here who are older than me, that when democracy carried the day, no one considered it to be disunity.

                                    Sitting here as the Minister of International Relations and Co-operation I know that in a developed country, Belgium, there was no government for two years because they had a hung parliament.  No one cried foul and called it disunity.

                                    We always say that Africans do not know democracy, they cook democracy.  When we get an outcome of a democratic process, we call it disunity.

                                    The message I get from this is that leaders of the continent want change and they do not want a change that is based on whose former colonizer is stronger than who.  They just want change because they want to see a stronger administration at the level of the African Union.

                                    So, viva democracy, viva.

Issued by the Department of International Relations and Co-operation
Pretoria
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30 January 2012

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