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SADC's candidate for African Union Commission, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi

SADC hopeful confident of second time lucky at AU poll

SADC's candidate for African Union Commission, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi

SADC’s candidate for African Union Commission, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi

JOHANNESBURG – THE Botswana and Southern African Development Community (SADC) candidate for the position of African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, is counting on the support of her candidature by member states that previously abstained from voting, to win the election scheduled for early next year.

The elections are scheduled to be held during the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government on January 30-31 at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Candidatures should be submitted to the AUC on September 30.

The exercise will be held six months after an elective summit was staged in Kigali, Rwanda where none of the three candidates vying to succeed South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma failed to attain a two-thirds majority.

Venson-Moitoi led with 16 votes ahead of Agapito Mba Mokuy of Equatorial Guinea (representing central Africa), who polled 12 votes while Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe of Uganda (representing East Africa), secured 11 votes.

The 15-member Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS), which could not field a candidate, absconded from voting.

Meanwhile, there were reservations about Kazibwe’s nomination as she was previously probed for abuse of state funds during her tenure as her country’s vice president.

Some also questioned the suitability of Mokuy because Equatorial Guinea is seen as a repressive state, under Teodoro Nguema.

There was some skepticism about the Botswana aspirant with her British-born President, Ian Khama, hardly attending AU summits and holding views contrary to positions of many AU member states.

In an exclusive interview with CAJ News, Venson-Motoi, the Botswana Foreign Minister, was buoyant she would win the poll outright, pinning her hopes on votes from other AU member states that abstained from voting in Rwanda.

These, she said, had assured support of her candidature.

The SADC candidate disclosed increased support from other regional blocs of the continent such as the West and North African member states had boosted her selection morale as possible replacement for Dlamini-Zuma.

She said the support behind her candidature had “tremendously” increased from the initial number of member states that supported her.

“I believe that the wave of support we had leading up to Kigali has only become bigger and deeper,” said the veteran politician (65).

“I am humbled by it (support) and further encouraged by it. I would not be re-offering myself if I felt I did not stand a chance to win nor that I could not match the task if I won.”

Apart from the support assured by other regional blocs, personally, Venson-Motoi is counting on her decades-long stint in cabinet and the private sector.

“I believe that my 40 years of public and private service experience across a very broad spectrum provides me with a very unique set of skills that will serve the AU well. I want to do my part as an African to give back to a continent that has given me what I have,” Venson-Moitoi said.

“My view is that the AU, in the person of their Chief Executive Officer, needs less politics and more administration. We have to start making meaningful progress if we are to truly see Africa take its rightful position as an economic and political player in the world.”

She said her campaign was premised on continuity. There is a strong belief SADC deserves the position of AUC Chair as Dlamini Zuma was entitled to two terms but served one.

The South African has been the AU chairperson since 2012 and did not apply for a second term. She nonetheless is occupying the position until January when a successor is elected. Nominations re-opened earlier this month.

Venson-Moitoi said the SADC region “brought to the table a strong value proposition for the AU and for Africa as a whole.”

“I will not be changing my song,” she said.

“I will just make it louder! Africa deserves better and I believe I can bring better. Better professionalism, better governance and better commitment to action the desires of the member states,” she said.

She laughed off suggestions the perception of Botswana as “anti-Africa” following its divergent stance with fellow African countries on some human rights issues would affect her chances.

“Botswana has a very well documented history of being key to the development of its people, its region and Africa as a whole,” argued Venson-Moitoi.

“What maybe unpalatable to a few might be that Botswana is prepared to take stands based on principle. This has, on occasion, set Botswana at a slight tangent to other states. But to suggest that having a varied view is ‘anti-Africa’ is being simplistic.”

She said the Southern African country’s commitment to the continent was well documented.

A few years after attaining independence from Britain in 1966, Botswana began to play a more significant role in international politics, putting itself forward as a non-racial, liberal democratic alternative to South African apartheid.

From 1974 Botswana was, together with Zambia and Tanzania, and joined by Mozambique and Angola, one of the “Front Line States” seeking to bring majority rule to Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

“Botswana is a land locked country in the heart of the continent; a country that had its own role during the years of white minority oppression in the region, a country whose commitment to African issues since she joined the AU is recorded, a member whose forces have been deployed across the continent in peace keeping missions,” said Venson-Moitoi.

“I could go on. It is not many African countries who may hold that view (of Botswana as ‘anti-African). What you are referring to is a recent misconception held by a very few.”

“I would like to add however that though I am nominated by Botswana, I am a SADC candidate. I believe that I should be judged as a Southern African female candidate with the right credentials who wants only the very best for Africa,” Venson-Moitoi said.

She said her first task should she be elected would be to enhance professionalism, improve governance and advance commitment to action.
Asked as to what value she would add to the AU, Venson-Moitoi said her offer remained “simple.”

She highlighted the need to reorganize and rebuild the identity of the AU.

“I will deliver on the desires of the member states. We are not short of ideas at the AU. Where we have work to do is converting those ideas into tangible action that benefit Africa.”

Amid criticism of the United Nations’ alleged lackadaisical approach to African crises, she said under her presidency, AU would advocate for dialogue.

“As I am a big believer in dialogue my response is therefore, ‘We cannot fix anything if we do not talk about issues.’ There is a Tswana saying ‘ntwa kgolo ke ya molomo’, which literally means the biggest battle one can have is a battle of words. It is easy to get violent and often much harder to sit down and talk.”

“That is what I believe is key to addressing a lot of African issues. It is also key in having our position heard and understood in all the various memberships that the AU finds itself. I will not shut the doors on dialogue as the AU chair; quite the opposite, I will open the doors to dialogue,” Venson-Moitoi.

She believes the AU could benefit from Botswana’s decades-long profile as one of Africa’s most stable countries and the continent’s longest continuous multi-party democracy.

One of the continent’s least populous nations with 2 million people, it is relatively free of corruption and has a credible human rights record.

“I come from a country that has seen 50 years of uninterrupted democracy and has only known peace,” Venson-Moitoi highlighted.

“All this has allowed my home country to develop and provide services to its citizens for 50 years. I would like to share this background and understanding of what is possible when strong administration and governance are injected into an organization. I want to make Africa a better place starting January 2017 starting with the Africa’s main office of governance.”

– CAJ News