South African diplomat and doctor Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has been elected to become the first female head of the African Union Commission, ending a leadership battle that had threatened to divide the organisation.
Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa’s home affairs minister and an ex-wife of President Jacob Zuma, on Sunday defeated incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon, who had been at the helm of the Commission, the AU’s steering body, since 2008.
Dlamini-Zuma, a 63-year-old who has previously served as minister of health and foreign affairs, had to undergo three voting rounds before Ping, 69, was finally eliminated.
A final confidence vote of 37 in favour gave her the 60 per cent majority she needed to be elected.
“Now we have the African Union chair Madame Zuma, who will preside over the destiny of this institution,” Benin’s president and current AU chairman Thomas Boni Yayi said.
The contest to head the Commission of the 54-member AU had been deadlocked since last year, with neither Dlamini-Zuma nor Ping winning a two-thirds majority.
It pitted French-speaking states, largely backing Ping, against mostly English-speaking countries, especially in southern Africa, which gave their support to Dlamini-Zuma.