GOOD RIDDANCE, DR. DLAMINI-ZUMA by Dr Chidi Anselm Odinkalu

* also published on Pambazuka:

In April 2016, Dr. Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma announced that she had decided to return to South Africa rather than run for a second term as the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU). For close observers this did not really come as a surprise as she appeared to spend less time on the institution than she did navigating the entrails of South Africa’s politics.  Ahead of her announcement, the Mail and Guardian reported on 29 March that Dlamini-Zuma was “likely to return to South Africa to run for a top ANC leadership position, possibly for president to succeed her ex-husband, President Jacob Zuma.”[1]Dlamini-Zuma is a leading member of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) and was for 16 years spouse of the incumbent President. Their divorce was reportedly formalized in 1982.

Later this month in Kigali, Rwanda, the Summit of the Heads of State and Governments of the AU will elect a successor to Dr. Dlamini-Zuma. As they prepare to do that, it is appropriate to look back at her tenure so that the institution avoids the kind of errors that made it such a lamentable misadventure.

It did not have to be so. A trained Paediatrician, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma arrived at the African Union  on the back of a stellar public service and political career in South Africa where she served four successive Presidents, including Nelson Mandela, as Minister responsible for Health, Foreign Affairs, and Home Affairs.

When she arrived Addis Ababa to assume office as the Chairperson of the AU Commission in October 2012, many believed that Dr. Dlamini-Zuma would usher in a brave new era in the history of the institution. She boasted many firsts: the first woman to head the AU; the first head of the AU from southern Africa and the first head of the AU with liberation credentials. In the end, she will be remembered for another first: the first head of the AU to leave as an utter failure. Her biggest legacy will probably be her eponymous Twitter handle, mostly famous for its preoccupation with fatuous nonsense.

Read more here: GOOD RIDDANCE, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma



Thanks, colleagues. I’ve had my say. We all should.

Don, I have also seen suggestions that Cyril Ramaphosa supposedly paid me to write this & funneled money to Fahamu to carry it. Well, at least people are reading.

The AU is supposed to belong to us all. I could write another Ph.D work on the subject, so have no need to begin displaying credentials on the subject. ‎Citizenship is enough credential.  I spend enough time on the minutiae of AU and regional institutions in Africa and of their histories, processes,  and evolution.

Mrs. Zuma is the first AU Chair or OAU Secretary-General before that to have been put forward for elective office back home while in Addis. Her appearance on the ANC ‎list in 2014 was beyond audaciously ill-advised. It suggested the AU was not her issue or serious enough for her.

Ebola was new to Africa on the scale it was. The AfDB under Kaberuka invented new instruments to challenge it. Seeing him in Liberia in the middle of Ebola made a difference to lots of people. When he showed up in DC & other capitals to argue about that he had authority. He could say I was there. Dr. Zuma is a medical Dr. for crying out loud. She went MIA in the face of arguably the greatest crisis the continent faced in her tenure and we are invited to offer thanksgiving because we should be grateful, right?

I spoke with at least 3 former Heads of State from West, Southern and Central Africa respectively who could not understand how the head of the AU Commission went to ground and kept away while Ebola raged. Each one of these Heads had spent enough time in AU Summits.

If all that can be offered up is oh, you can’t have a view on her performance because she is female, then what can you say to that but clap?!

Or that the AU is so exceptional mere mortals can’t understand it. For the record, that was what I did my Ph.D work on (the AU & regional institutions in Africa).

The idea of an AU exceptionalism would be laughable on its own. It is also a confession of failure because the AU was supposed to become more accessible not less. In any case, if the AU is no-hope organization as is claimed on her behalf, what kind of defence is it that she went to a no-hope organization knowing that she would offer nothing?  I look forward to reading about Dr. Zuma’s scorecard. I’d be happy to apologise on being shown a record that is better than beneath abysmal.

What can I say about the idea that we should subject a leader to lower or no standards because of her sex? Africans are not supposed to have ‎expectations of our leaders and institutions. We beg and borrow to feed our people but we have money to fight wars and rig elections. Anyway, let’s see who the next person is.

When I was introduced to science in High School, one of the earliest notions I learnt about was “Matter”: anything that has weight and occupies space. Hopefully, we can all grow to get more involved in expecting that the AU can’t just change its name to matter although it clearly should have weight and does occupy serious space.


Donald Deya, Chief Executive Officer, Pan African Lawyers’ Union (PALU)

I have seen quite some support, as well as a significant amount of strident criticism, for Chidi’s Article.

For many of those that criticise the article, they take essentially 3 lines: –

1.  That the writer does not know how the AU works; he’s writing from a position of ignorance

2. That the legal and institutional architecture of the AU is so restrictive that no Chairperson can do much

3. That the criticism fits in the ‘usual’ misogynistic trend of criticising women leaders more than you would criticise a male leader in similar circumstances

For questions number 1 and 3 above, I would only say that if you know Chidi, then you know that this is definitely NOT so. He knows the AU very well (better than most), and he definitely does not discriminate between women and men. You might have issues with his linguistic flair, but, if you know him, you can’t accuse him of ignorance or discrimination.

With regard to number 2, and, really more importantly, for those who have nice things to say about Nkosazana’s tenure at the AUC, the best favour they could do her – and the continent – is to write their own articles chronicling the good they believe she has done. Angry and incoherent one-liners on social media do NOT foster further debate; neither does it do Nkosazana any real favours. I am sure that Pambazuka (and many others) would be willing to publish such articles, and to foster further debate.

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