President Jacob Zuma and MPs from across the political spectrum hailed Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma for her years of hard work and dedication to serving South Africa, and said she would be sorely missed.
Addressing a joint sitting of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces (NCOP), in which Dlamini Zuma was present, Zuma lauded the Home Affairs Minister as one of the country's most exceptional leaders.
"She will be sorely missed in the country, but we know that we shall feel her footsteps in Addis Ababa," Zuma said, referring to the Ethiopian capital where the AU headquarters is based.
Dlamini Zuma will next month take over from the current AU chairperson Jean Ping.
After joining the government Cabinet in 1994, Dlamini Zuma served first as Minister of Health, then Foreign Affairs and most recently Home Affairs, after spending many years in exile and inside the country as an activist before the country's first democratic elections.
She had helped extend healthcare to the poor by rolling out clinics in rural areas and had successfully introduced anti-tobacco legislation which staving off criticism from smokers and tobacco companies, said Zuma.
As Minister of Foreign Affairs she had helped to lead the African renaissance and revival of the continent, and had for many years been the sole woman in UN circles and African leader meetings.
Zuma said in 2009, she was given the mammoth task of turning around the Department of Home Affairs and had succeeded in her task.
"She has demonstrated that indeed government services can be delivered better," he said.
He said her new position was another step to breaking barriers for women and opening doors for women.
Zuma said Africa had come from 16 raging wars in 2002 to a continent that was fast achieving peace and stability.
Added to this two thirds of African governments were now democratically elected - compared to just eight in 1991, while six of the world's fastest 10 growing countries in the last 10 years are from Africa.
He said as an AU-member state South Africa would support all AU programmes and step up efforts, working with other African countries, to prevent wars, genocides and crimes against humanity.
South Africa would also ensure the effectiveness of the Nepad and the African Peer Review Mechanism to improve governance on the continent.
However, Zuma said the peace and stability organs of the AU must be strengthened to be able to provide African solutions to problems on the continent.
"If we do not do so we will find those from outside the continent with resources coming in under the guise of helping, and divide the continent, taking us backwards," he said.
The DA's Ian Davidson congratulated Dlamini Zuma, highlighting her successful turnaround of the Department of Home Affairs and said her loss as one of the "better ministers" would be missed.
Davidson called on the Dlamini Zuma to help improve the AU's transparency by disclosing its funding partners, activities and finances.
He also pointed out that the disproportionate method of funding - where the bulk of funding was from non-member countries including old colonial masters the US and European nations - also compromised the AU's ability to act independently.
The Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor also praised Dlamini Zuma and called on the AU to develop partnerships between people in Africa and the African diaspora to ensure the continent could develop its human capital.
The Speaker of Japan's parliament Takahiro Yokomichi, who was seated in the gallery of the National Assembly, sent his congratulations to Dlamini-Zuma on behalf of Japanese Prime Minister Joshihiko Noda. - SAnews.gov.za