On May 13, 2012, the Sunday Nation columnist Mukhisa Kituyi wrote a one-sided piece of how he perceives the vision of the African Union should be and who should drive it as the next commission chair.
His view was that it should be anyone but a South African. As a South African national and a citizen of Africa, I categorically and unequivocally say Dr Kituyi’s arguments couldn’t be further from the truth. (READ: SA leadership of AU Commission has to be rejected)
The founders of the African Union (previously the Organisation of African Unity), envisaged an African continent that is independent, united, peaceful and prosperous; a continent where pan-African brotherhood and sisterhood unites all African people with no regard for their regional origins.
This is our historic vision. The liberation of Africa from colonialism testifies to what can be achieved if Africa stands united.
At almost 50, the AU stands ready for renewal and rejuvenation in order to move the continent forward. This task demands a visionary leadership with a pan-African outlook.
This is the reason why the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), speaking for Southern Africa, is fielding a candidate in the person of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
She is a distinguished and capable candidate with credentials and track record that responds to the task at hand.
The candidate will also contribute to addressing the gender imbalance in the AU. Her candidacy is aptly captured by the theme, “Historic Vision – New Strategies for Unity, Peace and Prosperity”.
Since the formation of the OAU 49 years ago, southern and northern regions are the only ones that have not had the privilege of leading the commission.
The southern region tried on two occasions to field a candidate but was unsuccessful.
The position has been occupied by western Africa seven times; central Africa three times, and eastern Africa two times.
True, Mr Salim Ahmed Salim led the OAU for more than 10 years. However, what might have been conveniently forgotten is that Mr Salim is Tanzanian, therefore from East Africa.
Consequently, in the spirit of regional rotation, Mr Salim’s tenure belongs to the East African region. The AU is a democratic organisation. It always ensures that its decisions are taken democratically.
The practice includes ensuring that all member states are appropriately represented in the leadership and staff of the union. This is achieved in the following manner.
• The position of the chairperson rotates among the five regions identified above. When a region is not ready to take its turn, it is agreed on a substitute region.
This decision is made by consensus; not through competition or voting. But never has a region been refused a chance to take its turn; nor has any country’s nominee chosen by a region been opposed by member states when it is the turn of that region. This practice works well and keeps us united and stable as a continent.
• AU rules provide that the chairperson and his or her deputy should not come from the same region. That ensures inclusivity and diversity in leadership.
• When electing commissioners for the AU Commission, the same democratic process of regional representation, balance and equal treatment is respected.
Each region is entitled to two commissioners (except for those from which the chairperson and deputy are appointed which are entitled to one each).
•Regarding the commission’s staff, all member states have a quota that they are entitled to. This is done to ensure that there is no imbalance in favour of any member state or region.
It is therefore puzzling why this fairly straight-forward, transparent and democratic practice is not extended to the election of the chairperson of the AU Commission this time round.
In our respectful opinion, the continued discrimination of northern and southern African member states is likely to cause disaffection and disunity not just within the AU, but also in the continent as a whole.
Every person on this continent whose country is a member of the AU should be free to seek and be considered for any position.
What should count is the candidate’s training, background, experience, integrity and suitability as well as his or her commitment to the AU and the general pan-African agenda.
Mr Ntshinga is the South African High Commissioner to Kenya.