WINDHOEK-NAMIBIA (7/10/2020) – The SADC Parliamentary Forum will hold its 47th Plenary Assembly Session virtually from the 9th to the 11th of October 2020 under the theme: “The Role of Parliaments in Strengthening Accountability during a pandemic: The Case of COVID-19.”
This would be the first time that a SADC PF Plenary takes place virtually. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has now claimed the lives of more than one million people all over the world, has prompted many organisations to suspend face-to-face meetings as they strive to continue working under safe conditions.
By Moses Magadza
WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA - The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Malawi were last week elected chair and vice chair, respectively, of the recently-constituted Regional Parliamentary Model Laws Oversight Committee (RPMLOC) of the SADC Parliamentary Forum.
This happened as the regional inter-parliamentary body acted towards ensuring that the region's citizens benefit meaningfully from development of regional soft laws, which are arguably immensely persuasive. Model laws are typically developed in line with international human rights law and international best practice.
The SADC Parliamentary Forum considers that the COVID-19 Outbreak across the SADC region represents a significant threat to public health. Whilst all SADC countries are involved in addressing the pandemic, the SADC-PF recommends that national Parliaments continue to play a leading role in consolidating legal and policy frameworks that can assist to mitigate the outbreak in both the short and long term. In this respect, the SADC-PF encourages SADC national Parliaments and Governments to share experiences with one another, and conduct peer learning on policy responses, as they embark to address the COVID-19 situation prevailing in their country.
The SADC-PF recommends that the responses by each national Parliament should be evidence-based, proportionate to the urgency of the situation, and in conformity with human rights applicable. At all times, a careful balancing exercise should be conducted of the urgency of the COVID-19 situation at the domestic level and the need to protect fundamental human rights of individuals who may be quarantined, confined or under curfew, depending on the domestic circumstances. The SADC-PF is confident that SADC Parliamentarians will be able to embrace their leadership roles in this time of crisis management and ensure that the SADC region, and by extension the world, recover quickly from the pandemic.
The Forum is making arrangements to share COVID-19 related legislation adopted by Member Parliaments and Member States on its website (http://sadcpf.org) in view of promoting information sharing.
In line with public health principles contained in Model Laws developed by the Forum, the following pointers are recommended for the consideration of national Parliaments as they turn to address the COVID-19 outbreak:
- The objective to attain Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and fulfil Sustainable Development Goal 3 relating to health and well being for all, should remain overarching guiding principles to inform policy and legislative responses across SADC;
- Whilst priority should be given to mobilise resources to address the COVID-19 outbreak, access to other equally essential health care services should not be mitigated, eg Sexual and Reproductive Health services, essential surgical interventions, treatments for chronic illnesses, screenings for cervical cancer, provision of ARVs for treatment of HIV/AIDS etc. Redeployment of medical staff to fight the COVID-19pandemic should also ensure that there are no lapses in delivery of essential health care services;
- A national monitoring surveillance team should be set up which includes parliamentarians to monitor the daily COVID-19 situation;
- The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the treatment of other illnesses should be assessed scientifically in view of preventing a collapse of public health systems;
- In consultation with central banks, banking charges and levies should be removed to facilitate withdrawal of cash at the nearest ATMs, and promote cashless banking systems which avoid handling of cash by the public;
- Parliaments may consider adopting targeted legislation for the creation of special funds to assist most vulnerable communities and key populations, and to establish confinement/curfew conditions which are human rights-friendly and proportionate to the urgency of the situation;
- Favourable trade agreements should be negotiated with partner countries to ensure that there is continuity in the availability of staple food supplies and commodities;
- Intellectual property frameworks should be reviewed such that essential medicines, drugs and vaccines to combat COVID-19 are available to the public readily at affordable prices or with subsidies from the State;
- A special COVID-19 tax regime may be instilled for a determined period to encourage enterprises and individuals to address the economic crisis, for instance by removing VAT on certain products, giving rebates, reducing income tax for certain economic sectors in difficulty etc;
- Policy frameworks should be re-engineered through the budget to reinforce the public health system and ensure that it can be sustained in the long term to address the pandemic;
- The long-term financial, industrial, social and environmental impact of the pandemic should be assessed for each country and cooperation established between SADC countries in view of supporting one another and opening new food and medical supply lines where necessary.
The SADC-PF encourages its Member Parliaments to continue promoting the values and guiding principles of the Forum in such trying times, including respect for human rights, the rule of law and constitutionalism.
SADC Parliamentary Forum 25th March 2020
SWAKOPMUND - The 46th Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum ended on Sunday in Swakopmund, Namibia with a call for SADC Member States to work towards universal health care.
Namibian Vice President Nangolo Mbumba officially opened the three-day Plenary. He challenged the SADC Region's Members of Parliament to use their mandate as elected representatives of their people, to ensure good health for all.
He explained that UHC is concerned about ensuring that all people have access to healthcare and that there is no financial risk or hardship.
"It is our firm belief and conviction that we can only eliminate Malaria in SADC within the context of UHC. We can only end TB by 2035 within the context of UHC. We can only end AIDS by 2030 within the context of UHC and reduce maternal and infant mortality within the context of UHC," he said.
He commended the SADC PF for promoting parliamentary engagement on issues of Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights and HIV which can culminate in UHC and facilitate sustainable human and social development in the SADC Region.
He said the theme of UHC was linked to the attainment of targets of Goal Number Three (3) of Sustainable Development Goal on health which he said was high on the global agenda and agendas of many SADC countries.
"It is certainly these and many other achievements which underlie the proposal for the transformation of the SADC Parliamentary Forum into a SADC Parliament," the Vice President said.
He urged the SADC Parliamentary Forum to continue "with lobby initiatives in view of achieving transformation to promote parliamentary excellence for the benefit of the SADC Region as a whole".
Mbumba noted that the SADC Region was losing potential revenue as a result of exporting unprocessed raw materials and called on MPs to support industrial development initiatives.
He said SADC PF was firmly on track and operating in line with its founding principles.
"SADC Parliamentary Forum has remained true to its constitutive mandate, namely that of serving as a regional consultative forum for parliamentarians to deliberate on matters of regional interest. This is an important contribution to the promotion of representative and participatory democracy."
He said election observation missions organised under the umbrella of the Forum are important in supporting electoral integrity in the region.
"The Forum's commitment to gender equality and women advancement is also worth noting," he added.
Speaking at the same occasion, Hon. Verónica Nataniel Macamo Dlhovo, President of SADC PF and Speaker of the National Assembly of Mozambique, said the Forum was indeed advancing its mandate and had over the years developed normative standards in the form of model laws.
"This is an important legislative and policy contribution to SADC's integration. We have adopted Model laws on issues of regional importance such HIV and AIDS, Child Marriage and Elections," she said.
She expressed optimism that the domestication of norms and standards contained in these instruments would strengthen democracy and improve the well-being of citizens of SADC.
"Regional and international protocols and other instruments end up gathering dust and their aspirations are hardly realised. The SADC Parliamentary Forum, therefore, has established a Regional Model Law Oversight Committee to monitor the domestication of Model Laws and related regional instruments developed by the Forum," she said.
She said the UHC agenda was timely because it advanced the SADC PF's Model Law on HIV in Southern Africa of 2008 as well as the Model Law on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights of 2013.
"It is comforting to note that the SADC Parliamentary Forum's Sexual, Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Program is advocating for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services for all without discrimination. UHC should prioritize the health and rights of women, girls and other vulnerable people," she said.
Bilankulu called for free health care, saying lack of financial resources thwarts access to health for all but especially for women and girls.
"Financial and other resources which more often determines women and girls' access to healthcare should be addressed. The health and rights of women and girls can only be achieved through the promotion of free public healthcare," she said.
She said UHC should address socially constructed gender roles and gender determinants of health which compromise the provision and quality of public healthcare.
"Gender-based discrimination, harmful practices and the lack of autonomy which women and transgender people often suffer over their own bodies present a serious risk for the attainment of UHC. We, therefore, need gender lens and gender-disaggregated data to ensure that healthcare needs of women and girls are specially targeted."
On women in politics, she called on Member States to take practical steps to facilitate the active participation of women.
"We have moved one step forward and we are regrettably moving two steps backward. We have witnessed a decrease instead of an increase in women representation even in some of the Member States where we were expecting improvement," she said.
She attributed the poor representation of women in some National Parliaments to bad electoral systems.
"It is a fact that the type of electoral system is a contributing factor to increasing or decreasing the representation of women and this challenge has unfortunately not been addressed. The 'first past the post' electoral system compared to proportional representation and the purposeful inclusion of women quotas inhibits women representation in political and decision making positions," she said.
SADC PF Secretary General, Ms Boemo Sekgoma said the 46th Plenary drew the participation of thirteen Parliaments.
Observers included Mrs. Grace Kibunja, Advocacy Unit Manager of the African Population and Health Research Centre; Sifisosami Dube, Head of Governance and SRHR at Gender Links; and Members of the Diplomatic Corps of Missions accredited, to the Republic of Namibia.
MAPUTO- The Speaker of the National Assembly of Mozambique, Hon. Veronica Nataniel Macamo Dlhovo and Senator Isaac Mmemo Magagula from the National Assembly of Eswatini were elected unopposed as President and Vice President of the SADC PF respectively earlier this month.
The two lawmakers were elected at the end of the 44th Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC PF which the National Assembly of Mozambique hosted. They will serve the Forum for two years having taken over from the Speaker of the National Assembly of Angola, Hon Fernando da Piedade Dias Dos Santos and Senator Monica Mutsvangwa of Zimbabwe who served as President and Vice President of the Forum from 2016 to 2018.
The Vice President of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, Senator Monica Mutsvangwa left the leadership of the Forum last week after an eventful two years at helm of the inter-parliamentary body that brings together 14 SADC national parliaments.
In a case of history repeating itself and in an emotional farewell speech at the end of the 44th Plenary Assembly Session of SADC PF that took place here, Mutsvangwa bade farewell to the regional body that she served in various capacities for many years.
"I cannot help but feel an oppressive sense of déjà vu … The memories of July 2012 remain etched on my mind as I came here for the 31st Plenary Assembly to bid goodbye and surrender my post as Treasurer of the SADC Parliamentary Forum ... How time flies and yet how history always seems to recur!," she said.
The SADC Parliamentary Forum has expressed profound sadness following the passing on of former diplomat and Member of Parliament Nora Schimming-Chase.
In a statement, SADC PF Secretary General, Dr Esau Chiviya offered “deepest condolences” to the Government and people of Namibia as well as the entire Schimming-Chase family.
“A respected diplomat and fearless advocate of the rights of women and girls, Hon Schimming-Chase diligently served as Vice-Chairperson of the SADC PF from 15th November 2006 to 27 November 2008. Whenever she presided over the Plenary Assembly Session in place of the Chairperson, she did so with unrivalled eloquence and firmness,” Chiviya said.
The SG said Schimming-Chase once served, also, as a Member of the HIV and AIDS Standing Committee of the SADC Parliamentary Forum from June 2006 to November 2008.
“Overall, she devoted a lot of her time and energy furthering the ideals of SADC PF. Namibia and indeed the continent have lost a steadfast advocate for human rights. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those whose lives were positively impacted by this great woman. Her passing on is a major loss,” he said.
His Royal Highness Prince Guduza, the former Speaker of the National Assembly of Swaziland, who also once served as chairperson of the SADC PF expressed “great shock and a deep sense of sadness” following Schimming –Chase’s death.
“I recall with gratitude how much of a very wise and intelligent person she was. She added value to the very many important tasks that the SADC PF had charged us with,” HRH Guduza said in a statement.
He said the late Schimming-Chase supported ongoing efforts to transform the SADC PF into a Regional Parliament. He added that she a stickler for optimal use of scarce resources at the Forum and cherished peace and tranquillity.
“She was instrumental in motivating Presiding Officers (Speakers) from various countries that are represented in the SADC PF, to go on a goodwill mission and ascertain that the government of Zimbabwe was operating in conformity with the guidelines and dictates of the Government of National Unity (GNU.)”
HRH Guduza said the former diplomat had remarkable leadership qualities, exuded authority and diligently presided over the Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC PF whenever she acted as Chairperson.
“She was an extraordinarily brilliant and gifted person.”
Botswana’s former MP Ambassador Duke Lefhoko, described the late Chase as “the embodiment of kindness, resoluteness, candidness, excellence and diplomatic finesse.”
He said” “She was endowed with the true lion heart trait that I find common among women rather than men.”
He added that Schimming-Chase was a brave woman.
Amb Lefhoko worked with her within the SADC PF when he was Treasurer and subsequently Vice Chairperson of the Forum.
“We participated together in some Election Observation Missions in the SADC Region. She was meticulous at work.”
He recalled that Schimming-Chase was deeply hurt and shed a tear when the Executive within the SADC Region “dealt the SADC Tribunal a fatal blow.”
He said Schimming-Chase was a “true democrat” and said her passing on was a loss not only to Namibia, SADC and Africa, but the rest of the world.
“She possessed a rare trait of being an avid listener and a leader in conversation,” he concluded.
EZULWINI, SWAZILAND - All the 14 member Parliaments of the SADC Parliamentary Forum are represented at the 39th Plenary Assembly Session of the regional body which officially got underway on Wednesday here.
This is the second time that the Plenary Assembly Session is being held in the Kingdom of Swaziland, the first being in 2004.
Mr Sheuneni Kurasha, the Programme Manager: Democracy & Governance as well as Parliamentary Business Focal Person at SADC PF said the fact that all member states are being represented demonstrates the value they place not just in SADC PF but also in SADC regional integration agenda.
He said the Plenary had begun flawlessly.
"The sub-committees of the Executive Committee met on Monday, including the Parliamentary Business Sub-Committee which considered the parliamentary business for the 39th Plenary Assembly. This was followed by a meeting of the Executive Committee which met on Tuesday and among other things, approved the business for the Plenary Assembly Session," Kurasha said.
In welcome remarks to the delegates who include Speakers of National Parliaments and Members of Parliament, the Speaker in the House of Assembly of Swaziland, Hon Themba Msibi said his country had benefitted immensely from being part of the deliberative body.
"Swaziland has always been a full member of the Forum and has benefitted in many ways including from many workshops for Members of Parliament and we cannot be more grateful," the Speaker said.
The chairperson of the Regional Women's Parliamentary Forum Hon Francisca Domingos Tomas from Mozambique hailed Swaziland for fighting discrimination of women. She said Swaziland afforded equal opportunities to all her citizens including women, some of who now occupy very senior positions in different spheres. Hon Domingos held out the example of the long serving President of the Senate of Swaziland, who is a woman.
The Secretary General of the SADC PF, Dr Esau Chiviya said the theme for the Plenary Assembly Session provided and opportunity for National Parliaments of the SADC Region to "take stock of the human rights situation in the SADC Region in general in general and the rights of women in particular."
He added: "Parliaments will examine their own centrality the centrality of human rights in law making and at the same time explore strategies for meaningful collaboration."
His Majesty King Mswati III, who was represented by the Acting Prime Minister, Senator Paul Dlamini, officially opened the Plenary Assembly Session whose theme is strengthening the Role of Parliament in Protecting and Realisation of Human Rights in Southern Africa, on Wednesday.
The King took the opportunity to explain the country's democratic system - Monarchical Democracy - which he said had been misunderstood in some quarters.
"Monarchical Democracy is defined as the marriage between the monarchy and the ballot box. The ballot box is the will of the people who vote for an individual, who will provide advice and counsel to the King and country in a manner that ensures transparency and accountability. It is a combination of power with empowerment. It means that the Monarch of Eswatini guarantees the shared power of the people," the King said.
He added: "To those who proclaim that democracy is the answer to all nations and their development, we present ourselves as a testimony to a new democratic ideology that works… the Kingdom of Eswatini's position is that it believes in democracy as an idea but not as an ideal because things that are ideal to you may not be ideal to other people."
Kurasha said among the main highlights of this Plenary Assembly Session is the expected adoption of the Model Law on Eradicating Child Marriage and Protecting Those Already in Marriage in Southern Africa.
The law, which was developed in response to the decision by the 35th Plenary Assembly Session held in Mauritius in June 2014, will be a historic milestone by Parliamentarians from the Region in the quest to end the scourge of child marriages bedevilling many countries in the Region.
Other issues to be considered include committee reports by various SADC PF standing committees as well as motions by various Members of Parliament. They include: a motion on the Need for SADC PF to Develop a Model Law on Elections to Facilitate the Domestication of SADC Principles and Guidelines for Democratic Elections by Member States (mover: Hon. Maneesh Gobin, MP, Mauritius); motion on the Prevalence of the Dual Epidemic of Tuberculosis (TB) and Diabetes around the World (mover: Hon. Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam, MP, South Africa); motion on Combating Hunger and Poverty in Southern Africa (mover: Hon Paulo Angola); motion on the Need for Integrated Energy Infrastructure and Security as a Means for Regional Development with Specific Attention to the Inga Dam Project (mover: Hon. Stevens Mokgalapa, MP, South Africa); and motion on the Importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) In the Development of the SADC Region (mover: Hon. Siphosezwe Masango, MP, South Africa).
Other motions include : motion on the Negative Impact of Poor Service Delivery on Women as People Responsible for Care Work at the Household (mover: Hon. Masefele Morutoa, MP, South Africa); motion on The Need For SADC Member States Expedite The Signing And Implementation Of The Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement Aimed At Creating An Enlarged Market Extending From Cape To Cairo (mover: Dr Samson Mukanduri, MP, Zimbabwe).
Approximately 190 delegates including observers from other regional and international organisations that SADC PF collaborates with are attending the Plenary Assembly Session which ends on Sunday.
Mozambique hosts the 31st SADC PF Plenary Assembly SADC Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) wishes to announce that the National Assembly of the Republic of Mozambique will be hosting the 31st Plenary Assembly of the Forum from 09 to 16 July 2012 at Hotel Polana in Maputo.
The SADC PF 31st Plenary Assembly will be held under the theme “Strengthening Parliamentary Democracy” and it seeks to ensure greater parliamentary role in enhancing participatory democracy and good governance in SADC.
The Secretary General of SADC PF, Dr Esau Chiviya explained that this theme is timely as it comes at a time when National Parliaments in SADC have adopted the Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures in Southern Africa which is a standards instrument meant to guide legislatures to transform themselves into democratic and effective institutions.
The Plenary Assembly will among other things, consider the Benchmarking and Self-Assessment Toolkit which is an implementation tool to guide SADC Parliaments as they seek to domesticate and institutionalise the Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures in Southern Africa and in so doing strengthen parliamentary democracy in SADC countries.
The 31st Plenary Assembly will be officially opened by Mozambique President, His Excellency Armando Emilio Guebuza on Friday, 13 July, 2012. Chairperson of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, Hon. Lovemore Moyo, who is also Speaker of the House of Assembly of Zimbabwe and the host
Speaker, Hon. Verónica Nataniel Macamo Dlhovo will also address delegates during the Official Opening Session.
The biannual event will be attended by Speakers and Parliamentarians from the 14 SADC Parliaments namely the host Mozambique as well as Angola, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Issued by the Office of the Secretary General on Friday 06 July 2012 in Windhoek