Dlamini-Zuma to hold 'state of continent address' in KZN, raises eyebrows


South African President Jacob Zuma (2nd R), African Union chairperson and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (C) and African Union commission chairman Nkosasana Dlamini-Zuma (L) stand for a family photograph at the strat of the 25th African Union Summit

DURBAN – African Union Commission (AUC) chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will address her first and only “state of the continent” media briefing in Durban on Monday, a month before her four-year term ends.

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Despite being the first address of its kind in recent African Union (AU) history, communication regarding the event has come through South African regional and provincial channels and from the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS).

There is no notice of what would be deemed a major event on the AU website and the provincial government only received a request to host the event a couple of weeks ago.

It is not immediately known why KwaZulu-Natal was chosen as the venue, but as the African National Congress leadership battle gains pace Dlamini-Zuma is known to enjoy widespread support in the province.

She has made it known that she is available for election as ANC and state president in 2017 and 2019 respectively.

Dlamini-Zuma’s tenure as AUC chairwoman ended in July but was extended to January, when a new chairperson is to be voted in. The AU headquarters are in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

KwaZulu-Natal premier Willies Mchunu’s spokesperson Ndabezinhle Sibiya told ANA on Saturday that heads of state were not expected at the briefing but that other senior officials would attend.

“We are expecting ambassadors in the main and consulate-generals from a couple of countries. We have also invited premiers from other provinces,” he said.

Although a list of ambassadors and consulate-generals had been drawn up, Sibiya said there was not yet clarity on who exactly would attend.

The premier’s office was contacted by the AU secretariat “a couple of weeks ago” to ask if the event could be hosted in the province, he said.

“As KwaZulu-Natal we acknowledge and appreciate the fact that we have been identified by the African Union to host this important event. When the Organisation of African Unity transitioned into the African Union in 2002 the launch was held in Durban and was attended by over 40 African heads of state.

“To host such an important event again to reflect on the term of office of the chairperson of the commission is an honour. We are hosting this on behalf of many countries in Africa,” he said.

This would be Dlamini-Zuma’s first state of the continent address. She has chaired the commission since October 2012.

ANA was unable to find any specific addresses given by former chairpersons on the state of the continent. Sibiya said, however, that it was common practice for outgoing chairpersons to “give a reflection on their term of office when their tenure ended”.

Sibiya declined to comment on whether the event could be perceived as being a platform for Dlamini-Zuma to drum up support before next year’s ANC elective conference.

Accompanying Dlamini-Zuma will be Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, premier Willies Mchunu, and eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede. All are known supporters of President Jacob Zuma, who is Dlamini-Zuma’s ex-husband. The provincial and national ANC youth leagues have openly endorsed her for both positions.

While they have not publicly said so, the provincial ANC will likely also endorse Dlamini-Zuma for the positions; a move some pundits consider being a direct order from Zuma.

Dlamini-Zuma also enjoys support among ANC members in Mpumalanga, the Free State, and North West. However, because of sheer voting numbers, KwaZulu-Natal is regarded as a kingmaker when it comes to decision-making within the movement.

Inkatha Freedom Party leader in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature Blessed Gwala said his party had no idea that such an event was taking place. The Democratic Alliance could not be reached to confirm whether they knew of the event.

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