MGNrega chief executive Nhlanhla Nene was sworn in as president of the African Union in January 2017.
She was the first woman to be elected as an official in the organisation’s 50-year history.
She is also the only African head of state to be nominated by the African National Congress (ANC) party.
Her appointment was hailed by many African leaders and civil society groups, who said the ANC had failed to provide effective leadership on the continent.
She said the new president was in charge of a “world-class” organisation, which she said had a mandate to fight poverty, increase investment and address climate change.
But the government and opposition said the appointment was a step back for Africa.
“Nene is not qualified to run an organisation that is expected to be the foundation of a new African continent,” said the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“She is only going to be a voice for her party’s policies and its policies are not good enough for the continent’s needs.”‘
The DRC is still the biggest black market in the world’MGNregas is an important pillar of the continent, accounting for almost half of all black exports and making up over 10% of the region’s total trade, the US Treasury said in 2017.
But it is also a major source of illicit finance for the DRC, which is estimated to have a population of some 1.8 million and is home to some 20 million people.
African leaders, including President Jacob Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa, have expressed disappointment at the appointment.
“The D-RDC [Congolese Democratic Forces (DFA)] is still an important source of black market income and corruption in the region and will need to be dismantled,” said Nhwenhu Nhlenh, director of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a non-governmental organisation in South Africa.
The government’s response to the announcement has been to deny it, saying it was part of a broader programme of reform to improve the country’s governance.
“African Union [AU] leaders have consistently stated that MGN is a cornerstone of our African Union (AU) policy, which we will continue to support and promote,” said MGN’s executive director Nhuanani Nguema.
The African Union said it would work with Nhrani Ngueni to promote reforms in the sector.
“We look forward to working with the African government on these important initiatives,” the AU said in a statement.
Nhranil Nguena, MGN chief executive, said she hoped for a “peaceful” transition of power.
“I believe the African community will continue its work to rebuild the country and I am confident that the country will return to a positive, stable and prosperous state,” she said.
“A peaceful transition will bring about the end of a period of instability and the creation of a prosperous and stable Africa.”
But opposition groups are not optimistic.
“She will have to give the same kind of answers as the president,” said Thabo Mbeki, a former AU president and the leader of the opposition.
“They will be different to what they have been giving the country.”