SA minister gives Mugabe the thumbs up as AU chair

PRETORIA –

PRETORIA – ZIMBABWE’s President Robert Mugabe chaired the African Union’s two-day heads of state summit in a professional manner, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said on Monday.

“He was elected unanimously by his peers as the chair for 2015 and we think he chaired the meeting at the AU very well. We have no qualms about it,” she told reporters in Pretoria.

African leaders recently appointed Mugabe to chair the 54-nation African Union. The 90-year-old, who has ruled his country since 1980, succeeded Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

The announcement was made during the AU’s two-day heads of state summit at its headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

Mugabe, who turns 91 this month, fell down steps from a podium after speaking to supporters when he arrived at Harare’s airport from Ethiopia. Aides helped him up and escorted him to his limousine.

When he took over the reins of the AU, Mugabe urged African countries to pull out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. He said the matter should be on the agenda at the next AU summit scheduled in South Africa for June.

On Monday, Nkoana-Mashabane said African leaders believe making use of the ICC should be a last resort.

“When we are to talk about on what reflections the leaders made on ICC, we should not jump the other considerations that the leaders made. A report was presented on strengthening the African court in Arusha [in Tanzania],” she said.

“The AU does not focus only on whether we are withdrawing en-masse or not. Before a country sends individuals to the ICC, all which is available in terms of justice should be explored. The ICC should be the last port of call.”

However, she said African countries joined the ICC independently.

“That does not stop African leaders to reflect on what was envisaged when African countries signed on at the establishment of the court,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy were recently cleared of crimes against humanity by the ICC. Kenyatta was the first sitting head of state to appear before the court.

Mugabe reportedly said he was “hugely disappointed with Kenyatta for subjecting himself to the authority of a European Court”.

A warrant has been issued for Sudanese president Omar El Bashir on genocide charges.

Other matters on the AU summit’s agenda included Lesotho’s elections, scheduled for February 28.

“President [Jacob] Zuma is meeting the leaders of the government of Lesotho today [Monday] in his capacity as chair of the Southern Africa Development Community [SADC] organ on politics, defence and security co-operation. The leaders are expected to brief the chair [Zuma] on final preparations for the elections,” said Nkoana-Mashabane.

“As chair of the SADC organ since August 2014, South Africa has led successful election observer missions to Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Mauritius and Zambia. The missions found that elections in these countries were peaceful, transparent, credible, and free and fair, thus reflecting the will of the people.” -Sapa