Guide to the SADC Parliamentary Forum
Since June 2014, the Forum has endorsed an “Operating like a Parliament” Strategy which heralds the operational paradigm of the Forum as it embarks on a progressively more ambitious phase of inter-Parliamentary integration. The transition from a deliberative body to a fully-fledged SADC Regional Parliament is a logical step in the Forum’s initiatives towards regional integration made over the years, through targeted interventions and resolutions at the level of the Plenary Assembly.
Despite progress made in different spheres, the fact remains that in 2018, the SADC Region continues to be affected by daunting challenges. Improvement of national responses to HIV and AIDS; greater access to affordable medicines and health services; the need to ensure free and liberal trade; improvement of gender equality; enhancement of the democratic systems of the SADC Region through fair elections or access to domestic minerals through mining; and food security, among others; all constitute matters of mutual interest that are confronted with challenges on multiple fronts. Moreover, the SADC Region is affected by the same factors weakening the international economic order and which impact on trade deficit, economic growth, public debt and unemployment rates in Member States.
The Model Laws developed under the auspices of the Forum further attest to the long-standing agility of the Forum in working towards the harmonisation and integration of laws in the region. Altogether, the role of the Forum in helping to enhance sustainable development in the region is undeniable. However, now more than ever, despite the achievements of the SADC PF to date, in its current form, it is clear that there is need for further action beyond its current mandate. Resolutions agreed to at the regional level are not binding on Member States. A SADC Regional Parliament would thus serve to promote good governance and augment the implementation of the decisions of the Executive through the engagement of lawmakers at Regional level on issues of common regional concern. In this regard there is need for a higher inter-Parliamentary body which can bring Member States closer together and engage them to enact laws and administer policies that are border-friendly allowing for political, social and economic integration whilst bearing in mind other common concerns which plague the region. While similar regional inter-Parliamentary systems already exist in Europe, the rest of Africa and other regions of the world, the SADC Region will not replicate but rather develop its Regional Parliament in its own context, given its unique specificities without usurping the sovereignty of Member States. Furthermore, the achievements of the Forum already lend credence to the fact that inter-Parliamentary cooperation can indeed act as a game-changer in ridding the region of its ominous challenges.
In accordance with inter-state economic modelling, the idea of a completely integrated economic bloc would be marked by the free movement of goods, services, capital and people. Fiscal and non-fiscal barriers to trade would be gradually eliminated thereby allowing free flow of goods across borders. The establishment of a SADC Free Trade Area would constitute a point of departure for future integration, followed by a Customs Union, then a Common Market, a Common Monetary Area and ultimately a Common Currency. Complete monetary integration would imply that there will be no restriction on capital flows across nations which would use a single currency denomination. Monetary policy, price stability, balance of payments and regional debt would be overseen by a central Bank for the region. The integrated regional zone would furthermore be visa-free, with liberalised airline connectivity and initiatives to jointly market the region as a single destination of choice.
1.3 The Forum’s Mandate
The SADC-PF is a Regional Inter-Parliamentary body comprising of National Parliaments of SADC Members States (except Madagascar). Currently, the SADC PF comprises 14 Member Parliaments, representing over 3,500 Parliamentarians. The Member Parliaments are; Angola, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The SADC PF was established in 1996 and approved by the SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government on 8th September 1997, in Blantyre, Malawi. The Summit “approved the establishment of the SADC Parliamentary Forum as an institution of SADC, in accordance with Article 9(2) of the SADC Treaty”. The Summit further noted that the mandate of the Forum was “to constitute a Parliamentary Consultative Assembly, the ultimate goal being the establishment of a Regional Parliamentary Framework for dialogue on issues of regional interest and concern”.
There are five standing Committees aligned to SADC sectors that oversee program implementation. These Committees are the engine room for Parliamentary Business. Below are the five SADC-PF standing Committees;
- Gender Equality, Women advancement and Youth development;
- Trade Industry, Finance Development integration;
- Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources and Infrastructure;
- Democratisation Governance and Human Rights; and
- Human and Social Development and Special Programs.
The SADC PF’s mandate as enshrined in its Constitution is as follows:
- To promote respect for the rule of law, gender equality and equity, individual rights and freedoms, including the promotion and development of cooperation in the economic field in the SADC Region based on the principle of equity and mutual benefit;
- To promote peace, democracy, security and stability on the basis of collective responsibility and supporting the development of permanent conflict resolution mechanisms in the SADC Sub-Region and strengthening regional solidarity and building a sense of common destiny among the peoples of SADC; and
- To promote dialogue and cooperation among Member States on socio-economic development issues in order to enhance economic welfare.
1.3.1 Objectives of the Forum
- To strengthen the implementation capacity of SADC by involving Parliamentarians in the affairs of SADC;
- To advocate the harmonisation, ratification, domestication and implementation of SADC Protocols, treaties and other decisions at the national level
- To promote the principles of human rights, democracy, peace and security, regional integration, human and social development, economic governance and gender equality through collective responsibility within the SADC Region;
- To familiarise Parliamentarians of Member Parliaments with the objectives, priorities and decisions of SADC;
- To provide a parliamentary perspective on issues affecting SADC countries;
- To provide a Forum for discussion on matters of common interest to SADC; and
- To promote cooperation with other parliamentary organisations and other stakeholders.
1.3.2 Implementing the Mandate
The Forum already operates in accordance with a governance framework which is sanctioned by its Constitution and the Rules of Procedure of the SADC-PF. Under this governance structure, the Plenary Assembly is the main decision-making body of the Forum and the Executive Committee is the management body which feeds information to the Plenary Assembly. The other organs of the Forum, namely the Standing Committees and the Regional Women Parliamentary Caucus, also feed information to the Plenary Assembly on specific thematic themes. The Secretariat, headed by the Secretary-General, stands guided by the decisions of all other organs of the Forum and is overseen by the Executive Committee in its operations. All Forum staff fall under the administrative supervision of the Secretary-General.
Collaborations between inter-parliamentary systems and international organizations further create the snowball effect which lays the foundations for incorporation of the Model Law into domestic legislation of Member States in the SADC region and beyond. It is the momentum created through collaborations which propagates the sense of ownership of the Model Law as a guiding legislative instrument which should inform African norms. The international acclaim and general acceptance given to the Model Law will also encourage Member States to incorporate the provisions in the best of delays.