‘I go as a servant of Africa’
Cape Town - Parliament on Wednesday paid a fond farewell and tribute to Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as she heads for Addis Ababa to chair the African Union commission.
President Jacob Zuma led praise for one of the country's longest-serving post-apartheid ministers, calling her a patriot and her departure a loss for the country, but a gain for Africa.
“She will be sorely missed in the country. But we know that we shall feel and hear her footsteps in Addis Ababa,” he told a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament.
“We pursued the issue of her election because Africa needs someone who would take the African Union and its operations to another level.”
Zuma said she had excelled as health, foreign and home affairs minister, the three portfolios she has held since 1994.
Congress of the People leader and former ANC defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota said Dlamini Zuma helped to champion a new vision of Africa during her decade as foreign minister.
ANC MP Maggie Maunye said as health minister Dlamini Zuma's stewardship of the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act had spared countless women the indignity and danger of back street abortions.
“We shall miss you. Let this joint sitting take forward your example of hard work and leadership,” she added.
The Democratic Alliance's Sandy Kalyan said Dlamini Zuma's “strong, determined and sometimes stubborn character traits” would serve her well in her new post.
After a standing ovation, Dlamini Zuma said she had been deeply touched by wishes of support from colleagues and ordinary citizens.
Reflecting on her time as a minister, she said: “It has been a very pleasant 18 years, but it was a very steep learning curve for all of us.”
She said she believed Africa's future had never looked brighter as the continent was “dynamic, developing, and increasingly democratic” but the present generation had a duty to ensure this potential became a reality.
Wiping away tears, she added: “I'm going to Addis Ababa not as a saviour, but as a humble servant of the continent.
“I cry when I'm happy, I cry when I'm sad, and today I'm both.”
Dlamini Zuma said her priorities would include resolving conflicts, promoting education and women's rights, and integrating trade and infrastructure across Africa.
She has in recent weeks voiced support for giving the Pan-African Parliament legislative powers.
Dlamini Zuma will be the first woman and the first South African to chair the decade-old African Union.
She will replace Jean Ping of Gabon after a closely fought contest that split the AU along linguistic lines. French-speaking nations backed Ping, while English-speaking countries rallied behind Dlamini Zuma.
Neither candidate secured the required two-third of votes in a first round in January.
Ping then remained in office for another six months, before he was defeated by Dlamini Zuma with 37 votes out of 54 in a second round in July. - Sapa