The Need for South Africa to renew its Host Country Agreement with the Pan African Parliament - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Friday, September 7, 2018

The Need for South Africa to renew its Host Country Agreement with the Pan African Parliament

PAP President H. E. Roger Nkodo Dang

 By Olu Ibekwe

In an article on May 26, 2018 edition of News24 titled Why the Pan-African Parliament must clean up its act if it wants to survive, Babatunde Fagbayibo, an Associate Professor of International Law, at the University of South Africa  disclosed that major newspapers in South Africa “have been extremely critical of the Pan African Parliament and that “Pretoria might be forced to re-assess its financial contribution in the face of civil society pressure”. Continuing, Fagbayibo wrote “The image of the parliament as corrupt is also bound to raise even more questions about its continued existence. The PAP is costly to run. Some may question if it’s worth keeping or whether it might be more productive to channel the funds that keep it afloat to other strategic regional integration projects. These include infrastructure development and the promotion of good governance”.
Another article which appeared on the Sunday May 20, 2018 edition of Sunday Times titled Only the Best will do for Pan African Parliament Head, at a hefty cost to South Africa, the author stated that the President of the Pan African Parliament Hon. Roger Nkodo Dang rejected a ministerial home offered to him by the South African Government preferring to stay at an expensive hotel in Sandton. It also accused Dang of rejecting a Mercedes-Benz E-Class offered by South Africa, preferring a Mercedes-Benz ML sport utility vehicle. These articles paint a picture of the funding of the Pan African Parliament by South Africa’s government and suggesting that those funds should be channeled into other projects. But then, what kind of funding is South Africa’s government providing to the Pan African Pan Parliament?

It would be recalled that when the Pan African Parliament (PAP) was inaugurated on March 18, 2004 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Republic of South Africa and Egypt respectively offered to permanently host the Parliament. After presentations by both countries, South Africa was chosen over Egypt at the July 2004 Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa

The choice of South Africa was informed by the fact that then South African President Thabo Mbeki assured the Assembly that his country would erect a befitting secretariat for the PAP at the site of the Gallaghar Estate, Midrand and that the facility would be constructed at South Africa’s expense. President Mbeki further promised that the facility would provide the official residence of the PAP President and that his country would extend diplomatic privileges and immunities to all the PAP’s foreign staff members and parliamentarians.

Following the Assembly’s approval, a Host Country Agreement (HCA) was signed between the AU (on behalf of PAP) and South Africa (represented by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation) for an initial five (5) year period which expired in 2009. Regrettably, nine years after the expiration of that initial HCA, it has not been renewed despite several efforts on the part of the PAP.

Fourteen (14) years after the initial HCA was signed, South Africa is yet to begin the construction of its promised permanent site for the PAP secretariat, not to talk of the official residence of PAP President. The internet facilities, communication and translation facilities provided over fourteen years have become outdated and obsolete. I wonder if any of us still use desktop computers and laptops or even telephones that were purchased fourteen years ago in this age of telecommunications revolution!

South Africa’s Funding of the PAP
The impression being created by the South African Parliament and believed by the local media and the average South African is that PAP is substantially funded by the South African Government when in fact PAP does not receive any funds directly from the South African government. The money spent by South Africa’s Government on PAP is paid directly to South African businesses for rendering services and supplies. This includes the over thirty one million Rand allegedly paid annually as rent for the PAP Secretariat, which is paid directly to the South African owners of the property. The other supplies and services which South Africa’s government  pays for, including the rental of buses and vehicles for sessions (for six (6) weeks every year) are provided by South African businesses.  It is therefore, South African businesses that are the direct recipients of the money spent by their Government on PAP. The bottom line is that all the funding provided by South Africa’s government goes back into the South African economy.

AUC Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahanat
Without doubt, PAP’s presence in South Africa contributes positively to its economy. For example, funds provided by the AU and other donors for payment of staff salaries and other activities are spent by those staff in South Africa. The parliamentarians who are funded by their respective countries also spend their money in South Africa during plenary and Committee sessions in paying for their hotel accommodation and feeding, in addition to other international visitors who come to PAP for one activity or the other. The direct economic impact and contribution of PAP to the South African economy is arguably in the range of R500 million (five hundred million Rand) annually, not counting the multiplier effect. Therefore, the economic benefit derived from hosting PAP far outweighs its economic cost. Above all, South Africa enjoys the prestige and other benefits associated with the hosting of such an international organization.

PAP Secretariat  
It is really unfortunate that after fourteen years, South Africa is yet to fulfill its promise to erect a permanent, befitting PAP secretariat. The current secretariat has become grossly inadequate. For example, the AU is currently made up of 55 member states with each having five parliamentarians, means that there should be seating arrangement for 275 parliamentarians at the plenary hall. However, there are only about 240 seats which is why there is no permanent seating arrangement for parliamentarians. Also, some parliamentarians do not have individual offices to retire to when not in plenary and those who have, complained about the inadequacy of their offices, a situation which leaves much to be desired.

PAP President’s official residence
PAP President H. E. Hon. Roger Nkodo Dang was accused of rejecting a “ministerial home” under renovation offered by the host country and instead “rented a mansion in Sandton”.  However, African Parliamentary News can authoritatively report that the so called “ministerial home” is a three bedroom bungalow in Pretoria which was temporarily allocated to the first President of the Parliament, Her Excellency Hon. Dr. Gertrude Mongella after the inauguration of PAP in 2004. 

Just like everything else about PAP in South Africa, this temporary accommodation, now turned permanent, was used by Hon. Mongella throughout her five years in office. When the late H. E. Hon. Dr. Idriss Ndele Moussa succeeded her in 2009, he also stayed in this same three-bedroom house throughout his three-year tenure. H. E. Hon. Bethel Amadi who succeeded the late Hon. Dr. Moussa also stayed in the same three-bedroom house throughout his three-year tenure. In all these years (2004 to 2015), not a single piece of furniture was changed or a coat of paint applied to the wall. 

There were several complaints about broken windows, leaking roof and plumbing leakages. The wall in one of the bedrooms was always so damp that the room was never put to use. Our investigations also revealed that the situation got so bad that the Pan African Parliament wrote several letters to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation for permission to effect the needed repairs but were told that the Department of Public Works which is the custodian of government buildings is the agency that can carry out such repairs. Consequently if H. E. Hon. Roger Nkodo Dang declined to stay in the same three bedroom bungalow that was in the condition described above and whose furniture had not been changed since 2004, South Africa should be blamed for not living up to the terms of host country agreement. For the South African media to describe Hon. Dang as corrupt because he refused to stay in such a bungalow is unfortunate and most uncharitable.

H. E. Hon. Dr. Gertrude Mongella
PAP President 2004 to 2009 
The Pan African Parliament is one of the nine organs of the African Union, and third in hierarchy and order of protocol. The implication of South Africa’s position is that it considers the head of the third highest AU organ to be equal in status and rank to a minister in the South African Government. And even then, is South Africa telling us that the furniture in the accommodation offered to their respective ministers have not been changed since 2004? If a minister has any complaint or issue with his or her accommodation, will it not have been promptly looked into or addressed? And in any case, did South Africa promise to renovate a ministerial home for the PAP President or to construct a befitting residence fourteen years ago?

Office And Communications Equipment
As observed earlier, the internet facilities, communication and translation facilities provided fourteen years ago have become obsolete but could not be replaced and upgraded because the review of the HCA has dragged for more than nine years. According to the Report of the Committee on Monetary and Financial Affairs on the Pan African Parliament Proposed Budget for the Financial Year 2019, South Africa has been unable to upgrade PAP ICT infrastructure for a long time and PAP is now experiencing continuous breakdowns. In order to remain relevant and operational as a continental parliament, PAP proposed to spend $642,874 to upgrade its ICT infrastructure in 2019 financial year. In order words, PAP is now funding the purchase of equipment that South Africa was supposed to provide under the host country agreement. 

Security of PAP Parliamentarians
In 2016, members of the Pan African Parliament complained about increased rate of violent attacks against them when they come to South Africa for PAP activities and demanded more security. Some parliamentarians even called for the relocation of the seat of the parliament from South Africa to a country where members' security can be guaranteed, if the host country cannot give such assurances.

The complaint followed an attack on Hon. Aissatou Sow Diawara a PAP parliamentarian from Senegal who was shot and critically injured in a gun attack on 28 July 2016 on her way to her hotel from Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport. Three other parliamentarians from Namibia, sharing the same vehicle, were also robbed off their belongings, forcing them to return to Namibia. The July 2016 attacks followed a trail of similar violent attacks in August 2015, October 2015, March 2016 and May 2016.
The South Africa’s Media
 Late H. E. Hon. Dr. Idriss Ndele Moussa
PAP President 2009 to 2012 
The South Africa’s media write-ups tend to bring the image of PAP to ridicule. It would indeed appear that the print and electronic media are trying to outdo each other in publishing negative and inaccurate reports about PAP.  And apparently, the SABC seem to be in the forefront of broadcasting unbalanced and inaccurate reporting of PAP activities. An example is SABC report on the May 10, 2018 bureau election which is on Youtube. Watch:

Local newspaper reports and commentaries are all critical of PAP activities vis-à-vis supposed “corrupt leadership”. They complain about their government wasting scarce resources to fund such a useless and corrupt organization at the expense of other critical sectors. It is this kind of adverse media reports that fuels some of the regrettable and unfortunate xenophobic attacks on foreigners in South Africa. Vehicles and cars used in conveying parliamentarians during sessions are no longer branded because it makes them identifiable and easy targets. Once parliamentarians and staff step out of the PAP premises, they must either remove their name tags or risk being attached.

To begin to turn things around, the South African Government should embark on serious and aggressive public enlightenment, re-orientation and education of its citizens on the benefits of hosting PAP and its contributions to the local economy even in the face of inability to renew and/ or fulfill its host country agreement.  

H. E. Hon. Bethel Nnaemeka Amadi
PAP President 2012 to 2015
South Africa contested with Egypt back in 2004 for the privilege to host the PAP and was selected on the bases of the package it offered to the AU. It has since then, been enjoying the economic benefits of hosting such a continental body and is obligated to fulfill its part of the bargain. Therefore, it should as a matter of honour, begin the process of providing a permanent secretariat and official residence for the President of PAP.

Secondly, as the host country, South Africa should have been one of the first countries to ratify the Revised PAP Protocol and also be in the forefront of advocacy for the other countries in the Southern African Region to ratify the protocol. One therefore wonders if the Revised PAP Protocol can ever receive positive consideration from South Africa in the face of hostile attitude towards PAP which the country willingly requested to host.

Thirdly, the South African Parliamentarians should stop seeing themselves as supervisory or superior authority over PAP and learn to moderate their comments about PAP and its activities on the floor of the South African Parliament. Whipping up sentiments against PAP on the floor of their parliament at the slightest provocation leaves much to be desired. The urge or desire to create sound bites and pontificate for posting on Youtube should be checked. Additionally, the South African delegation to the PAP should stop seeing themselves as being “deployed to PAP” to do a hatchet job. Above all,  PAP parliamentarians are reminded of the provisions of Rule 7(3) of the Rules of Procedure of PAP which states that members of the Pan African Parliament shall vote in their personal and independent capacity and should not be bound by any instructions or order fom any authority” (emphasis added). The Revised PAP Protocol also contains a similar provision in Article 7.

Finally, the South African media should at all times, strive to be fair and objective in reporting the activities of the Parliament. Hatchet journalism is an ill-wind that blows no one any good.

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