South Africa's Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma addresses the media during the leaders meeting at the African Union in Addis Ababa.

Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's election as African Union commission chair is a victory for Africa's women, the ANC Women's League said on Monday.

“This is not a South African victory or even a (Southern African Development Community) 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.

“Her election as the first woman to hold the most powerful position in the AU speaks volumes for the gains made in fighting patriarchy on the African continent,” the league said.

It was exciting to see South African women “start coming to the fore and furthering their contribution internationally and serving the African continent”.

The ANC said she had distinguished herself in every position in which she had served.

“We believe that in her hands, the AU is safe.”

The party thanked the region for endorsing her, and also thanked outgoing chairman Jean Ping of Gabon.

The South African presidency said it was awaiting an official announcement on the election, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Sunday night.

“The AU is yet to formally announce it. Until then it will be inappropriate to respond,” spokesman Mac Maharaj said.

Earlier, International Affairs and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said Dlamini-Zuma would make sure the AU's resolutions were put into practice.

“What should change (with her election)... is that there will be more accountability, there will be more fast-tracking of implementations of decisions taken by the heads of state,” Nkoana-Mashabane told SAfm.

“That means, spend more time on implementation of our resolutions instead of just creating more and more (resolutions).

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 Dr 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 that as a mother and woman it believed she would end the abuse of women and children in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The ANC chief whip also congratulated her.

“While she will be lost to the South African government, which she served in various capacities with excellence and dedication for many years, we draw satisfaction from the fact that she will be assuming a higher calling – serving the entire African continent,” Mathole Motshekga said.

Asked whether this meant she would have to vacate her job as home affairs minister, spokesman Moloto Mothapo said it was understood to be a full-time position but the presidency would have the final say.

“We are confident that in Dr Dlamini-Zuma the continental body indeed has a seasoned diplomat and a hard worker with extensive experience in governance and Pan-African issues.

“We have no doubt that, given her wealth of experience, the AU commission's primary mission of driving African integration and development process in collaboration with AU member states will be better served under her able stewardship.”

According to her biography on the Government Communication and Information System, Dlamini-Zuma matriculated at the Amanzimtoti Training College.

She 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/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 has been president of the ministers' council for the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development, led a number of peace initiatives to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Comoros, Lesotho, and many others.

She was in a polygamous marriage with President Jacob Zuma until they divorced in the late 1990s.

She is a former chair of the AU executive council of ministers and a former deputy chair of UN Aids. – Sapa