Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - Right from the first round of voting by African leaders on Sunday, South Africa's Minister of Home Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma left few in doubt that she has what it takes to clinch victory over incumbent Jean Ping in the race for the presidency of the African Union (AU) Commission.
Dlamini-Zuma, who is one of the longest serving ministers in her country, having held the foreign affairs and health portfolios, won the first round 27-24 and surged to 29-22 in the second round, in an indication of things to come.
PANA reports that her resounding victory was nearly complete when she got 33 votes, one vote short of the 34 she required for an outright win, in the third round, compared to the 18 votes scored by her rival.
In the fourth and final round, Dlamini-Zuma garnered 37 votes against 14 votes for Ping, to be declared the new Chairperson of the AU Commission, making history as the first woman to hold the post.
It was the culmination of a long-fought battle that started in January, when the election featuring both candidates was stalemated as none of the two scored the required 60% of the votes.
The leaders then set up an eight-member panel to work out a consensus on whether to back Ping or his challenger, while extending the mandate of the incumbent.
However, that committee hit a brick wall, paving the way for Sunday's contest, on the first day of the 19th Ordinary Summit of the AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The moment Dlamini-Zuma's winning tally was announced, there was a moment of elation in the voting hall.
Ahead of the vote, the South African minister shrugged off criticism that she was breaking an unwritten rule that big African states, including her country South African and Nigeria, should not run for the top AU Commission post.
She said Nigeria had previously had its candidate lead the organisation for two years, hence it was not a big deal that South Africa was fielding a candidate.
With that cleared, Dlamini-Zuma said she was ready to take up the post and thinks a change is needed within the African bloc.
"We want to try to make the AU more efficient as an organisation," Dlamini-Zuma said at the New Age/SABC business briefing last week. "If you are working as the chair of the African Union Commission, it is not difficult to unite the countries. It's not a difficult thing once you are there."
Analysts said the days ahead will show how ready she is to live up to the billing.
-0- PANA AO/SEG 15July2012