JOHANNESBURG — Southern African regional bloc SADC accused sitting African Union chief Jean Ping on Friday of abusing AU resources in his election race against a regional favourite vying for his job.
The Southern African Development Community is backing South Africa's Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who takes on Ping at an AU biannual summit starting Sunday, after neither won the two-thirds needed at the last summit, leaving Gabon's Ping in the post of AU commission chair.
Botswana's foreign minister Phandu Skelemani said in a statement that SADC was "alarmed" that Ping used the AU website and letterhead to respond to a South African media report that speculated the incumbent was going to withdraw from the race.
SADC said the campaign for the executive job should be funded from personal resources and "we are therefore shocked and appalled by the blatant abuse of his office and resources of the AU commission."
By using the pan-African body's official channels to distribute his statement to the media "this makes his response an official statement of the African Union."
Ping denied a report by South Africa's Sunday Times that he was pulling out of the race to allow Dlamini-Zuma to stand unopposed as "outright fallacy and fabrication".
SADC said: "The conduct by the chairperson of the AU, namely abuse of AU resources... is unprecedented, and can bring disrepute to the integrity of the African Union.
"This therefore calls for an apology on his part."
Intense lobbying is under way ahead of the AU summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
Last January, a first round of voting ended in a stalemate, with neither side backing down despite failing to gain enough votes to win.
If no candidate is selected this time around, Ping, who has held the post since 2008, could legally be asked to continue as interim head until the next summit in January 2013.
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