The African Union (AU) celebrated its 50th anniversary on 25 May 2013.  The AU was formed in 2002 after the dissolution of the Oorganization of African Unity (OAU) which was formed in 1963.  It is also a little more than a decade since the formation of the African Union, which seeks to promote “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena”. The Heads of State declared the year 2013 the Year of Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance.

South Africa joined the then OAU in 1994, after the demise of the apartheid regime.  In 2012, as South Africa was celebrating with the born-frees (children born in 1994) as the majority of them were going to sit for their first matric examinations, something equally exciting was unfolding in the AU Headquarters in Ethiopia.   On the 15th July 2012, at its Nineteenth session of the Assembly of the African Union, our very own Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma was elected by the 54 member pan-African bloc as the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) after beating incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon by 37 votes or 60%.  Dr Dlamini Zuma therefore became the first woman to take this position in the AU and its predecessor OAU.  History was written.  Our President, His Excellency Jacob Zuma said “her election means a lot for Africa, for the continent, unity and the empowerment of women” on her election.

Her election was a great achievement for the country and the continent at large.  In one way or the other, it showed that the continent is committed to gender transformation and recognition of women as leaders.  The AU declared this decade as the African Women’s Decade. At her first meeting as the AUC Chairperson, Dr Dlamini Zuma told the Commission that “her administration would work on improving effectiveness, internal and external communication, resource mobilisation and gender equality”.  It is no surprise that the issues of gender equality are still a priority to her and she urged the AU to pay special attention to gender equity during the decade and beyond.



H.E. Dlamini Zuma has held different positions in the Cabinet of South African Government under all three Presidents of the Republic.  From 1994 – 1999 she was appointed Minister of Health under former President Nelson Mandela’s leadership.  From 1999 – 2009 she was appointed Minister of foreigners affairs under former President Thabo Mbeki’s leadership.  From 2009 – 2012 she was appointed Minister of Home Affairs under the leadership of President Jacob Zuma, a position she resigned from on 12 October 2012 after she was appointed the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, a position she took since 15 October 2012.



Dr Dlamini Zuma is a phenomenal woman and I can’t find better words to describe her than the poetic words from another phenomenal woman, Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman:

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou