MDC secretary-general Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga yesterday congratulated Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on her election as the new African Union (AU) Commission chairperson describing it as a “positive and refreshing step towards attaining gender equality”.
The South African Home Affairs minister defeated incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon in an election on Sunday at the AU summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Dlamini-Zuma won in the fourth round of voting by 37 votes from African leaders in a secret ballot.
She became the first woman to lead the AU and the first South African to land the post.
In a statement, Misihairabwi-Mushonga, who is also Regional Intergration and International Co-operation minister, said the election of a woman to the helm of the AU for the first time in the history of the organisation had raised African women’s expectations.
“As a party that upholds the principle of gender equality, we believe that Dlamini-Zuma’s election will stand as an inspiration to all other women throughout the world, who have been intimidated by patriarchy, to realise their dream,” she said.
“We are further motivated by the fact that this wasn’t an appointment, but an election that she fiercely fought and conquered like the biblical Deborah.
“As a party, we, therefore, look forward to her contribution in implementing policies that will give reign to justice and fairness for the prosperity of Africa.”
Misihairabwi-Mushonga also congratulated the Sadc region “for its unity of purpose as Africa elected the daughter from the region”.
Meanwhile, ruling African National Congress (ANC) Women’s League said Dlamini-Zuma’s election was a victory for Africa’s women.
“This is not a South African victory or even a (Sadc) victory, but rather a victory for the women of the African continent, who have long suffered under the oppression of colonialism, wars, poverty and patriarchy,” the league said in a statement.
Dlamini-Zuma was a long-standing member of the league and had always had a strong focus on women’s empowerment and gender equality.
The ANC said she had distinguished herself in every position in which she had served.
Earlier, International Affairs and Co-operation minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said Dlamini-Zuma would make sure the AU’s resolutions were put into practice.
United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said she would add much value to the commission as a leader and administrator. Although it was not yet clear whether she would leave her post as minister in South Africa, Holomisa said it was “a pity to lose a person of Dlamini-Zuma’s calibre in our cabinet at a time when South Africa faces a leadership crisis in many government portfolios”.
The African Christian Democratic Party said as a mother and woman it believed she would end the abuse of women and children in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to her biography on the government Communication and Information System, Dlamini-Zuma has a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and Botany from the University of Zululand, a degree in medicine and surgery from the University of Bristol and a diploma in tropical child health from the School of Tropical Medicine at the University of Liverpool.
Her career before formal politics included being a research scientist with the Medical Research Council, a paediatrics medical officer in Swaziland and a research technician.
She was Health minister from 1994 to 1999 and weathered a scandal over millions being spent on the musical Sarafina II as an anti-HIV and Aids message, as well as her apparent support for a so-called HI-Virus killer called Virodene.
She was Foreign Affairs minister from June 1999 to May 2009.
She was in a polygamous marriage with President Jacob Zuma until they divorced in the late 1990s. —Additional Reporting by SAPA