South African Home Affairs Minister, Ms Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who will be vying for the position of the African Union (AU) Commission chairperson next week, says she is ready to take up the post and thinks a change is needed within the African bloc.
"We want to try to make the AU more efficient as an organisation. If you are working as the chair of the African Union Commission, it is not difficult to unite the countries. It's not a difficult thing once you are there," Dlamini Zuma said at the New Age/SABC business briefing on Friday morning.
African leaders will vote for the new AU Commission chairperson when they meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the 19th Ordinary Session of the Summit of the African Union, scheduled for July 17.
Dlamini Zuma will contest the position with incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon. A vote was deferred in January when neither was able to secure the required two-thirds majority vote.
Asked what the position would mean for South Africa and SADC should she win, Dlamini Zuma said while it would not have direct impacts on the country, but having a South African leading the AU Commission could further strengthen the country's position in the continent.
"We are hoping that as we go there, South Africans will support us... Once you are at the helm at the AU, you will be serving the African continent not South Africa or Southern Arica. I don't think it will have a direct impact but it will definitely change the AU and hopefully South Africa will give us support if we win," she said.
Buoyed by the support it had received from Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, South Africa is confident that one of its longest serving ministers will emerge victorious in Addis Ababa. Ministers from SADC countries met in Pretoria earlier this week to further strengthen South Africa's case as the lobbying intensified.
SADC ministers have also been crisscrossing the continent trying to garner support for South Africa.
International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has said SADC believes that in keeping with the rotational principle, all regions should be given an opportunity to lead the AU Commission.
Since the formation of the Organisation of African Union (OAU), the southern and the northern regions have not had an opportunity to lead the AU at the level of chairperson.
The AU has also not had a woman leader in its 49 years, in spite of its 2010 declaration of the African Women's Decade.
On immigration, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma called for the tightening up of South Africa's immigration laws and suggested a revised Refugee Act to beef up the country's security, stressing that there were loopholes in South Africa's immigration and refugee laws leading to abuse of the system.
She revealed that in 2007, South Africa had more asylum seekers than all the 27 European Union countries combined, but only 5% actually qualified for asylum.
"We need to do a new Refugee Act. We will do so not by changing our international obligations but making sure that our laws and international obligations are not abused, we need to tighten up," Dlamini Zuma said.
Illegitimate refugee seekers were crowding the system, which was meant to help those who are vulnerable.
"What we will be doing is to look at the process itself as to who comes into South Africa as it should be open to people coming in and going out and they must be legal, so that we are efficient."
The minister hinted at the idea of opening new offices closer to the border.
She also said the department was now developing new systems to minimise the potential security risks largely encouraged by an apparent lack of coordination between different Home Affairs units.
"We just do not speak to each other and then you find out that people are taking advantage of these loopholes.
"For instance, you find that someone comes into South Africa and a week later he or she is getting married and a month later they register as late registration of birth and we are unable to pick that up because our systems don't talk to each other, so we want to change that," said Dlamini Zuma.