Peter Fabricius

Foreign Editor

Diplomats have expressed doubts about whether Nigeria has really switched its support to SA Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma in her campaign to be elected as AU Commission chairwoman, despite suggestions in that direction by visiting Nigerian Vice-President Mohammed Namadi Sambo.

Though Sambo gave the impression that Nigeria would vote for Dlamini Zuma in the elections for Africa’s top official job in July, diplomats said he had left himself several escape hatches in remarks at a joint press conference with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Nigeria has been widely perceived to be strongly backing the incumbent chairman, Gabon’s Jean Ping, in his campaign for a second term.

Dlamini Zuma challenged him at the last AU summit in Addis Ababa in January, but neither could muster the necessary two-thirds majority of the votes of African leaders to secure the job.

Another election is scheduled to take place at the next AU summit in Lilongwe, Malawi, in July.

After meeting Motlanthe for a meeting of the SA-Nigerian Bi-national Commission on Wednesday, Sambo was asked if Nigeria was leading the campaign against Dlamini Zuma. “The question regarding Nigeria opposing the position of South Africa is totally wrong and untrue,” Sambo said. “Positions are open to all Africans that are fit to take that leadership and I want to take this opportunity to say that South Africa and Nigeria will look at it as one country…” he added.