SADC PF Plenary ups momentum Featured
The 42nd Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC PF ended in the Namibian capital on December 3 2017 with delegates focusing on consolidating issues that started at the 41st plenary assembly session in Seychelles which ushered in a new leadership within the regional deliberative body.
Among the main issues deliberated and agreed upon was the issue of transformation of the SADC PF into a SADC Regional Parliament.
When plenary began, SADC PF President Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos who is also the Speaker of the National Assembly of Angola, called for concerted efforts to transform the Forum into a regional legislative body in keeping with its founding objectives.
Mr. Sheuneni Kurasha, the Parliamentary Business Focal Person at SADC PF, said many MPs and National Parliaments were now supportive of the envisaged transformation.
"There is consensus among SADC Member Parliaments that there is need for a Regional Parliament. The SADC Treaty places obligation on Member States to ratify SADC decisions for them to take effect," Kurasha said in an interview.
In almost all SADC Member States, ratification SADC and other decisions is the responsibility of Parliament. The absence of a Regional Parliament in Southern Africa means that there is no legislative body that facilitates speedy ratification of SADC decisions by National Parliaments.
"The SADC PF tries to assume that role but within the context and confines of a deliberative body which is not legislative. Accordingly, the just ended plenary resolved to accelerate engagement with SADC Heads of State and Government and other stakeholders on the need for a SADC Regional Parliament," he added.
The SADC Region remains the only one of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) of Africa without a regional legislative assembly.
The plenary welcomed progress made toward the development of a SADC Model Law on Elections under the SADC PF's Standing Committee of Democratization, Governance and Human Rights. Expectations are that the Model Law would facilitate the domestication of electoral instruments.
In the area of gender, the plenary agreed to focus on gender-responsive budgeting, which is the main-streaming of gender issues across the budget development process to ensure that issues that affect men and women, but in particular women for historical reasons, are addressed through the budget via allocation of resources.
In the same vein, the plenary highlighted the importance of the participation of women in elections, politics and decision-making to ensure that gender equality as it relates to increased representation, participation, and empowerment of women is realised given, that women constitute the majority in many countries.
Delegates were briefed on major developments in different countries. For instance, the Speaker of the Parliament of Zimbabwe, Advocate Jacob Mudenda, updated the plenary on the situation in Zimbabwe following recent events which led to the resignation of former President Robert Mugabe and the subsequent inauguration of the new President, Emerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa. The plenary wished Zimbabwe well and expressed optimism that the fortunes of ordinary Zimbabweans would improve.
From Lesotho's Speaker of the National Assembly Sephiri Enoch Motanyane, the plenary received an update regarding what has been an ongoing political crisis in that country which has prompted SADC to intervene through a commission previously and more recently, a peace-keeping mission.
In recent years, each time Lesotho went into a general election, it has been forced to form a coalition government because none of the parties has been able to garner adequate numbers to be able to form a government on its own. Those coalition governments have been fractious, leading to their collapse and snap elections being called. Over the past five years, three elections have been called for in Lesotho.
Motanyane explained that there had been notable progress in Lesotho in terms of implementation of reforms recommended by SADC PF, the African Union, the Commonwealth Observer Mission and others after the last elections which were held in May 2017, in which SADC PF participated as an observer.
The plenary welcomed the good tidings of progress in Lesotho and encouraged the new government and stakeholders to continue implementing reforms to ensure that the country returns to normalcy. Recommendations made include the need to regulate political floor-crossing, which has triggered instability when it has led to imbalance in terms of numbers that political parties are required to remain in government.
Angolan Speaker dos Santos briefed the plenary on the last election which took place in Angola on August 23 2017 which SADC PF unfortunately did not observe. SADC regulations stipulate that in order for an election observation mission to be deployed, there is need for a quorum of seven Member States. Only four SADC Member States expressed willingness to send observers to Angola. Since this did not make a quorum, the Forum could not send observes.
Delegates stressed the need for SADC PF to observe all elections in SADC Member States. They argued that this was in line with the oversight mandate of Parliaments.
The plenary noted that Angolan elections were conducted peacefully and ushered in a new President, João Lourenço, a former member of the SADC PF.
Election observation does not seem to be getting the attention of cooperating partners, yet in the eyes of SADC MPs; it remains an important issue as it constitutes an important aspect of democracy.
Noting that the of election observers has a restraining effect, Kurasha said the presence of observers during an election tends to boost the confidence of citizens and minimize election-related conflicts.
"This is because observers have a mandate to assess the extent to which member states adhere to the various codes of conduct that obtain in member parliaments. Election observation missions provide an opportunity for independent witnesses to elections. To that extent, they guarantee integrity of electoral processes."
The plenary resolved that Parliaments that are ready and able must participate in observer missions. However, delegates highlighted the need for all SADC Member Parliaments to participate saying when more Parliaments participate, it becomes cheaper and lends more legitimacy to elections.
Typically, SADC PF observer missions include male and female Parliamentarians from governing and opposition parties, which guarantees plurality.
Speaker of the National Assembly of Tanzania, Job Ndugai, attended the plenary with MPs from his country to a rousing welcome. It was the first time in nearly four years that a Speaker of the National Assembly of Tanzania attended the plenary.
Tanzania is not only a founder member of the SADC PF, but the country has been very active in the Forum. In brief remarks, Ndugai pledged his National Assembly's unwavering support to the work of SADC PF and the regional integration agenda.
An MP from the United Republic Tanzania, Ally Ally Sally moved one of the motions tabled and adopted during the plenary. The motion called for concerted efforts to ensure women's more active participation and representation as well as empowerment in politics and decision making positions.
Debating of motions tabled during the plenary was so passionate and lengthy that some motions were deferred to the next plenary assembly session which will be held in June 2018 in Angola.
Kurasha said the fact that some motions could not be dealt with was proof of the seriousness with which MPs generally deal with issues brought to plenary.
Among the highlights of the just ended plenary assembly session was the announcement that SADC PF had finally procured an official residence for its Secretary General, Dr Esau Chiviya, in keeping with standard practice and procedures of organizations like SADC PF.
The plenary drew approximately 110 delegates who included Speakers of National Assemblies, Deputy Speakers, MPs and staff of national parliaments from 13 of the 14 SADC PF Member Parliaments.
The Democratic Republic of Congo was absent with apology. Kurasha expressed gratitude to the Government and the people of the Republic of Namibia, the National Assembly of Namibia as represented by the Speaker Prof Peter Katjavivi and his staff for supporting the plenary.
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