Isn’t it glaringly obvious to this government by now that its increasingly desperate efforts to get Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma elected as chairwoman of the AU Commission in Addis Ababa next week are not worth the price it is paying?

Against a very unlikely victory and the dubious benefits of the job, the government does not seem to be weighing the costs; the growing division on the continent and the ill-will towards SA by key players, including Nigeria and Kenya.

Just how bitter the contest has become emerged very clearly this week in a statement issued by Gabon’s Jean Ping, the incumbent chairman whom Dlamini Zuma hopes to oust.

Ping was reacting to a Sunday Times report that said he had visited SA on Friday, ready to negotiate his withdrawal from the contest in exchange for another good job.

In an implicit yet obvious reference to SA, Ping furiously dismissed this report as the latest in a deliberate campaign of “malicious lies” designed to discredit him and undermine his campaign.

He also addressed what Pretoria evidently regards as its strongest charge against him – that he is the preferred candidate of France, which has helped to finance his campaign because it regards him as pliant enough to indulge its meddling in Africa. Ping denied these and other claims, saying they had been designed to damage his re-election chances. He insisted he was still in the race.

We cannot claim to know the full truth of all these allegations. But we have reason to believe that the SA government has been conducting an increasingly underhand campaign against Ping, not excluding disinformation.

Yet it also looks as though the dirty war is backfiring and that Dlamini Zuma will not win next week, Pretoria incurring all that ill-will in vain.

Even if she does win, her victory will be Pyrrhic as she will take over a deeply divided continent.

President Jacob Zuma should even at this late stage abandon this quixotic enterprise, to save SA’s relations with the continent and the African unity the government ironically professes to cherish.