JOHANNESBURG – THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) candidate for the chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Pelomoni Venson-Moitoi, has premised her campaign on ending civil strife, weeding out poverty, resolving the refugee crisis and advocating for parity between Africa and other regions in the international bodies’ addressing of crises.
Venson-Motoi, the Botswana Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister who has recently unveiled her manifesto in Johannesburg, neighbouring South Africa, is among three officials that have made their intentions known of succeeding South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Dlamini-Zuma, elected in 2012 to succeed Gabonese Jean Ping, will not stand for re-election at the imminent expiry of her term. SADC argues that since Dlamini Zuma is stepping down, it is entitled to another term.
Venson-Motoi (65), the longest-serving cabinet minister in her country,disclosed the reason she had entered the race to lead the AUC.
She has been in government for 37 years, including 17 years in Parliament and 15 in cabinet.
“After serving my country for so many years, at my age, I told the President (Ian Khama) it was time to serve the continent,” she said.
“As SADC, we believe there is a need for continuity,” she said about her intention to succeed Dlamini-Zuma.
“Under the chairpersonship of Dlamini-Zuma, AU has set some exciting programmes that are impacting positively on the continent under the theme of Agenda 2063. We aim to continue the SADC stamp on the AU to achieve the objectives of that Agenda. I’m lucky to have been chosen as the candidate for the region.”
She highlighted the objectives of Agenda 2063 to include the desire to “silence guns”, eliminate poverty which is rampant despite Africa’s endowment with resources, embrace peace, promote free movement of people and goods across borders and reduce the number of youth that migrate to Europe, sometimes risking death at the Mediterranean.
Venson-Motoi pointed out Africa boasts vast mineral resources to enable it create millions of property jobs, a move she argued would discourage Africans perishing on their way overseas in search of greener pastures.
“We must convert our vast resources to create employment and sustain our people. We need to formulate policies that would see creation of employment for Africans.”
Venson-Motoi said the AU would address the issue of leaders clinging to power as a major cause for conflict in the continent.
She thus suggested she would push for shorter terms of incumbents.
“One of my key priorities is to silence guns in the continent,” said the politician.
She mentioned the terror by sects such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Al Shabaab in Somalia as other insecurity problems.
Venson-Motoi raised concern at the manner the international bodies, the United Nations in particular, handled these crises.
“ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is just part of a crisis that also includes the Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram. The impact of ISIS is as devastating as the devastation by Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram,” she pointed out.
“However, the world leaders’ response to those problems in Africa tends to differ in speed and intensity. Our leaders have spoken out against this stance by the UN. It is high time we are taken seriously. We should step up the pressure on UN.”
In a related issue, she spoke about Africa owning its identity.
“To achieve this, we need to have a database for Africa as opposed to researching about ourselves in London. It’s time Africa knew itself better. Luckily, this is being addressed,” Venson-Moitoi said.
The SADC candidate will battle out with former Vice President of Uganda and UN envoy Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe (60), the East African candidate, and Equatorial Guinea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Agapito Mba Mokuy (51) the candidate of Central Africa.
The SADC candidate discloses they have been lobbying other blocs to endorse her ascension to the chairperson’s seat of the AUC at the election that will be held at the 27th African Union (AU) Assembly, to be held in Kigali from July 17 to18.
“Together with my region (SADC), we have reached out to other regional groupings, especially north Africa, West and some parts of the eastern bloc. Recently, I was in Algeria, where the North African nation endorsed our candidature. For strategic reasons, I cannot reveal much about other countries that we are visiting. Otherwise, our campaign is on course,” she said.
A former journalist, Venson-Moitoi holds a Master of Science (Administration) earned from the University of Central Michigan in the United States.
Her political career includes being Botswana’s minister of communications, science and technology. She has previously been minister of works and transport; trade and industry; wildlife and tourism; education, among others and being the deputy secretary-general of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
– CAJ News