Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma led a government delegation in a state banquet on Monday night to bid a final farewell to outgoing Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
She takes up her new position as African Union Commission Chairperson in Addis Ababa this week.
The high-level dinner, held at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, was attended by, among others, foreign ministers from several SADC countries, diplomats as well as business people.
In his tribute, President Zuma described Dlamini Zuma as a "diligent" person who understood the African Union and how it worked.
"She knows the role it can play to promote the political and socio-economic development of the continent as well as to boost its position internationally," Zuma said.
Dlamini Zuma became the first woman and SADC representative to be elected to the high position of the African Union when heads of state voted in her favour at a summit in Addis Ababa in July this year. Her election was seen as a milestone in the efforts to transform the continental body.
"Dr Dlamini Zuma's assumption of duty in the AU is also significant because we believe the continent will have an energetic, dedicated, strategic and focused chairperson who will ensure that the AU mission, vision, objectives and resolutions are implemented in a manner that changes the lives of Africans," said Zuma.
He said as a loyal member of the AU, South Africa would play its role and provide support to make the institution successful in its programmes of promoting unity, peace and stability on the continent.
"We will play our role to support her and ensure that she fulfils her duties to the best of her ability.
We know that Africa as a whole stands ready to provide this support as well."
Paying tribute on behalf of Cabinet, Minister in the Presidency responsible for National Planning Trevor Manuel described Dlamini Zuma as an astute politician whose commitment had always been to serve the people of South Africa with diligence.
"When she is convinced about something, nothing stands in her way. She is resilient and exceedingly loyal to the struggle that shaped her and the organisation that made her the person she is."
Both Manuel and Dlamini Zuma served in the first democratic government after the 1994 elections.
Tanzania's Foreign Minister Bernard Membe said the SADC region was behind the new chairperson.
"We have pledged our support and we promise to do that all the way because we believe in her and her capabilities to turn the AU into an organisation we can all be proud of."
Observers have said the challenge facing Dlamini Zuma would be to deliver on the reformist agenda expected from her, which aims to achieve a more effective AU.
There was also the challenge of bringing about peace and stability in several conflict-ridden regions of the continent such as the Sahel, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. Currently, the UN identifies eight countries as conflict spots in Africa.
Speaking of her appointment, Dlamini Zuma reiterated her commitment to ensuring that all 54 member states worked together to resolve the continent's problems.
"We need to find African solutions to African problems. It is not a responsibility of one person but it's the responsibility of the collective."
She promised to extend an olive branch to all AU member states, even the countries that did not vote for her.
"It is important that we work together to fulfil our task of ensuring a peaceful and prosperous continent." - SANews.gov.za