Africa split after election win for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

South Africa accused of heavy-handed tactics as President's ex-wife named head of 54-nation bloc

South Africa's Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has been appointed the first female head of the African Union, prompting accusations that the nation is looking to dominate the politics of the continent.

Ms Dlamini-Zuma beat incumbent Jean Ping, from Gabon, after a bruising six-month leadership battle which highlighted lingering divisions between Africa's Anglophone and Francophone nations and deflected attention from crises, including the conflict in the Sudans and DR Congo, as well as coups in West Africa and the hunger crisis in the Sahel region.

The former wife of South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, got 60 per cent of the votes she needed from the 54-nation bloc to see off Mr Ping at a summit during the weekend in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

With voting split along linguistic lines, Ms Dlamini-Zuma's victory was also seen as a win for Anglophone nations. But South Africa, the largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, was accused of bullying smaller nations in a "face-saving exercise" having failed to win enough support to take the post in January. Diplomats spoke of a "difficult heads of state meeting" and complained that South Africa may have "pushed too hard" to get Ms Dlamini-Zuma appointed.

After her win, the widely respected 63-year-old attempted to reassure smaller economies that Pretoria was not looking to dominate the continent: "South Africa is not going to come to Addis Ababa to run the AU," she said. "It is Dlamini-Zuma who is going to come to make a contribution."

The prospect of another six months of squabbling appeared to concentrate minds in Addis Ababa, along with fears of a further loss of credibility for an organisation already viewed by some observers as an ineffective talking shop. The failure of many nations to pay their membership dues means that for all its talk of a prosperous Africa, the bloc depends on international donors for much of its $274m annual budget. That influence was underlined by China's gift of a headquarters in the Ethiopian capital.

The AU's new leader at least comes into the job with a respectable report card from her ministerial career in South Africa. Often described as a "stalwart" of the ruling African National Congress, she has been in government for longer than her former partner, the president. "She's a capable and hard-working minister," said Catherine Grant from the South African Institute of International Affairs. "She's not in her position because of her relationship to Zuma."

Her backers say she has demonstrated a serious commitment to development issues and is a good negotiator. She has held the health and foreign jobs and most recently the home affairs ministry, where she was credited with successful reforms. She carries with her the mixed legacy of South African foreign policy, with successes such as being added to the "BRICS" club of emerging economies, as well as failures such as the country's ineffective diplomacy with neighbouring Zimbabwe.

In the ten years since taking over from the Organisation of African Nations, the AU has struggled to make much of an impact on the major challenges facing the continent but can point to some recent progress in Somalia.

Political polygamy: the wives of Zuma

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma has four children with the new African Union head, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. But the pair divorced in 1998 before she entered government. The openly polygamous 67-year-old President has married another four women since that annulment and now has six wives. Some estimates of the number of Mr Zuma's children reach as high as 20. He was forced into a rare public apology over his private life two years ago after revelations he had fathered a baby with a woman who is not one of his wives, which prompted widespread anger.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering