The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has reacted with discontent at what it described as an “abuse of office” by current African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson Jean Ping.
At issue is a statement released by Ping in response to a Sunday Times article this past weekend.
SADC’s main concern is that in responding to the media article of a personal nature, the AU Chairperson chose to use AU resources as clearly indicated by the use of the official letterhead and the official website to distribute his statement to media houses.
Ping, who is seeking a re-election as chairperson, will contest the position with South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, during a vote to be held this coming weekend.
“We find this to be a little bit overboard that the resources of this premier institution should be utilised for personal campaigns, this is the first time in history that we have experienced that and SADC ministers took the floor [Thursday] and raised this matter,” said South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
It’s understood that Ping had allegedly been using the AU website, its letterhead on documents and offices to push his campaign. Earlier this week he circulated a statement, in his capacity as AU Chairperson, accusing South Africa and the media of being involved in a spreading “mendacious allegations” and lying about him.
But Botswana’s Foreign Affairs Minister Phandu Skelemani insisted that the statement should not have been issued as from an AU office and labelled the action a violation and abuse of office.
Campaigning was a “personal matter” and thus should be done using personal resources as was normal practice.
“We are therefore, shocked and appalled by the blatant abuse of his office and resources of the AU Commission,” Skelemani said.
He added: “We are also seriously concerned that the content and tone of Dr Ping’s statement amounts to a direct attack on a Member State of the African Union by the Chairperson of this esteemed organisation.”
SADC considered Ping’s conduct as being in violation of the provisions and spirit of the Statutes of the AU Commission.
“This therefore calls for an apology on his part, and retraction of the statement through the same medium used.”
Ping was scheduled to hold a press conference on Thursday afternoon but it was cancelled at the last minute.
Nkoana-Mashabane said South Africa and SADC were expected to up their campaign ahead as Heads of State started arriving from Friday.
“We are continuing to speak to other leaders from the region particularly the ministers, we will continue to consolidate the support base that we thing we have garnered at this stage, she said.