PAP leadership and South Africa’s Host Country obligations - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Friday, September 29, 2023

PAP leadership and South Africa’s Host Country obligations

Opinion by Olu. Ibekwe

In his April 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, American Baptist minister, civil rights activist and Nobel Laureate Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Martin Luther King who lived in Atlanta, Georgia had gone to Birmingham Alabama to lead protests against racial discrimination in Alabama but was arrested and taken to jail. His fellow civil rights leaders blamed him for his arrest because he should have restricted his activities to Georgia, his home state. He responded to them through a now famous letter from the Birmingham jail.

His admonition is that when we notice something going wrong anywhere, we should not only condemn but do whatever we can to stop it even when it does not directly affect us. This is because, we are all somehow interconnected and the injustice if allowed to thrive, may eventually get to us.

Put another way, we can say that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing or remain quiet. When we overlook an injustice, it is seen by perpetrators as a tacit approval and then serves as a precedent for others. It not only undermines the law, but also the administration of the law.

The establishment of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) in 2004 was informed by a vision to provide a common platform for African people and their grassroots organizations to be more involved in discussions and decision-making on the problems and challenges facing the African continent. According to the Constitutive Act of the African Union, the Protocol that established the Parliament and its Rules of Procedure, PAP is supposed to be run as a democratic institution, observing due process and the rule of law in all its activities. PAP is not, and should not be a venue for “ego tripping” or muscle flexing for her individual members. Every Member State is entitled to representation at the Parliament on the basis of sovereign equality of States. The mandate of a member is that of his or her Member State.

But what is presently happening at the PAP should be of concern to all Africans because we are all stakeholders in the project.  

According to information, the duly elected and lawful President of the Pan-African Parliament, H. E. Hon. Chief Fortune Charumbira, before proceeding on leave on 21 August 2023, appointed the Third Vice President, Hon. (Mrs.) Lucia Dos Passos as the Acting President of the Parliament.

However, the Second Vice President, Hon. Dr. Ashebiri Woldegiorgis Gayo, showed up at the precincts of the Parliament in Midrand, Johannesburg, on 23 August 2023 unannounced, and declared himself the Acting President of the Pan African Parliament”. He did this notwithstanding the initial designation of the 3rd Vice President for the same position and without presenting any credentials or formal communication setting aside the earlier designation by the President. This is an administrative blunder and a recipe for institutional crisis.

Hon. Dr. Gayo is alleged to have demanded the keys to the Office of the President and installed himself in the office designated for the “President of the Pan-African Parliament”, despite having his own office at PAP. Ordinarily, a Vice President acting on rotation operates from his or her office. It is unprecedented for someone in acting capacity, including staff of the PAP Secretariat to seek to operate from the office meant for the substantive office holder. It is a no no!

This amounts to a desecration of the exalted “Office of the President” of PAP with such ignominy and deserves condemnation by all men and women of good conscience. Here is why.

Hon. Bouras DJAMAL became Acting President of PAP in April 2020 during then PAP President H. E. Hon. Roger Nkodo’s absence for national parliamentary elections in Cameroon. The May 2020 plenary session of PAP could not hold due to the worldwide travel ban occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. Bouras was in March 2021 replaced by H. E. Chief Fortune Charumbira and he was in that position for less than three months before the May 2021 botched Bureau election. Both Hon. Bouras and Chief Charmbira operated from their respective offices as Third and Fourth Vice Presidents respectively. None demanded for the keys to the office of the President and that office remained locked till after the 29 June 2022 Bureau election when Hon. Chief Charumbira was duly elected as President of the Pan-African Parliament.

On Monday 16 November 2020, Hon. Roger Nkodo wrote to the Executive Council of the African Union, drawing their attention to what he described as “the excesses of the Third Vice President and a serious institutional crisis” at PAP and called for their intervention.

In the said letter, Hon. Nkodo insisted that he is still the substantive President of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) and accused then Acting President of PAP Rt. Hon. Jamal Bouras of committing serious breaches of the PAP Protocol and Rules of Procedure.

He wrote: “I was elected on May 10, 2018 as the President of the Pan African Parliament for a three year term which runs till 2021. An acting president cannot remove a democratically elected president”.

Dang accused Djamal of breaching the provisions of the PAP Protocol because it is the ordinary plenary session that notes a vacancy and not an acting president and therefore called for the convening of an ordinary plenary session of the Parliament to address the issue.

“The authoritarian abuses of the Algerian Third Vice-President of the PAP, Jamal Bouras, who acts as President without rotation, have created a serious institutional and functional crisis within the Pan-African Parliament,” Dang wrote. See Roger Nkodo Dang, Bouras Djamal clash over PAP leadership (

The point that I am trying to make is that all through Hon. Nkodo’s absence, his office was not occupied by any of the Acting Presidents and his staff (Director of Bureau, Policy Officer and Secretary) retained their respective positions till after the expiration of Nkodo’s tenure at PAP.

But in the current case, Hon. Dr. Gayo is not only occupying the Office of the President, he also attempted to dismiss the Director of Bureau, Policy Officer and the President’s Secretary without observing any due process. He has purportedly single-handedly set aside the Rules of Procedure of the PAP and has become the Rule himself. Article 12.5 of the PAP Protocol states that “The President and the Vice-Presidents shall be the Officers of the Pan-African Parliament. The officers, under the control and direction of the President and subject to such directives as may be issued by the Pan-African Parliament, shall be responsible for the management and administration of the affairs and facilities of the Pan-African Parliament and its organs.” Today, the Bureau of PAP now consists of the Second Vice President and he has magnanimously invited the Chairperson of the Committee on Audit and Public Account, a parliamentarian from Zambia in the Southern Region to join him at the Bureau! Does Hon. Dr. Gayo have the right to amend the PAP Protocol when it comes to the composition of the Bureau? Does he have the power to choose which laws to obey and the ones to discard?

For the avoidance of any doubt, Article I of the PAP Protocol states “"President" means the Member of the Pan-African Parliament elected to conduct the business of Parliament in accordance with Article 12 (2) of this Protocol”. Article 12.2 of the Protocol states “The Pan-African Parliament shall elect, at its first sitting following its election, by secret ballot, from among its members and in accordance with its Rules of Procedure, a President and four (4) Vice Presidents representing the Regions of Africa as determined by the AU. The election shall, in each case, be by simple majority of the members present and voting. So for anyone to seek to move into the “Office of the President of the Pan-African Parliament”, he must have undergone an election. Otherwise, he or she should operate from their office as a Vice President.

And this has been the tradition at PAP. For example, when former Clerk retired and his position became vacant, the Acting Clerk operated from his office for more than a year. This bad precedent or aberration if you will must not be allowed to continue.

Another worrisome issue and desperation taken too far is the declaration of the seat of the First Vice President, Hon. Professor Messouda Mohamed Laghdaf vacant notwithstanding the fact the she, along with the other members of the Mauritania delegation were duly screened by the Committee on Rules, Privileges, Ethics and Discipline and duly sworn in during the Second Ordinary Session of the Parliament. How can a purported Acting President override the decisions of both the Rules Committee and plenary? Which provision of the Rules or Protocol gave him such authority?

It is alleged that Dr. Gayo has blocked the other Vice President’s access to PAP precincts, including the properly designated Acting President. He now operates as a “sole administrator of PAP”! Without going the Southern Regional Caucus, or seeking their input, he replaced the Bureau member from that region. What has happened to rotation and the decision that the current President must come from the Southern Regional Caucus? This is very unfortunate especially when African countries are dealing with unconstitutional changes of government but we have one going on in South Africa. This is not right.

This brings me to the issue of the Host Country Agreement (HCA) between the African Union and the Government of the Republic of South Africa on the seat of the Pan-African Parliament. The HCA defined “President” as the President of Pan African Parliament and as already stated, the PAP Protocol has also defined the President of the Pan-African Parliament.

Article II(2) of the HCA states that “For the purposes of this Agreement the President or his or her duly designated representative shall represent the Pan-African Parliament as well as the Secretariat” (emphasis added). So under the HCA, it is the elected President of the PAP that shall designate a representative which the President had done by appointing the Third Vice President, Hon. (Mrs.) Lucia Dos Passos as the Acting President. The South African Government through the Department of International Relations and Co-operation is obligated to honour the PAP President’s designation under the Host Country Agreement. And I may add that this designation is in line with Article 12.7 which provides that the President shall preside over all Parliamentary proceedings except those held in committee and, in his or her absence, the Vice-Presidents shall act in rotation. In other words, the “Office of the Acting President” is not provided for in the PAP Protocol. Rather the Vice Presidents act in rotation as directed by the President.

As then PAP President Roger Nkodo made it clear to Hon. Bouras Djamal as far back as in November 2020, an Acting President cannot unilaterally declare the seat of an elected President vacant because the President can only be removed on grounds of misconduct supported by a vote of two-thirds majority of members of PAP. The issue of dissolution of national parliament is no where mentioned in the PAP Protocol. If an office holder goes for election and returns, he automatically resumes his office having been elected to serve three-year tenure in the first place. PAP President Chief Charumbira has a legitimate expectation to serve out his three year tenure since the Zimbabwe National Parliament that designated him to PAP at no time, wrote the Clerk of the PAP to the effect that Charumbira’s status is no longer compatible with membership of the PAP as required by Rule 6.5 of the PAP Rules of Procedure. Without such a letter from the National Parliament of a Member State, there cannot be a declaration of vacancy. Above all, Rule 6.5 which incidentally was not amended, requires that a declaration of vacancy shall be made before the House in plenary as Nkodo  reminded Bouras back in 2020.

The South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) should demand from The Second Vice President, his credentials to occupying the “Office of the President of the Pan-African Parliament” and should not deal with him unless such credentials are presented. Above all, he should for goodness sake, be asked to vacate the President’s office immediately. Evil thrives when good men remain silent.

Also, the Speaker of the South African Parliament, through the relevant Committees of the Parliament, should immediately commence oversight hearings on this anomaly at the Pan-African Parliament. It is settled that the Rules of Procedure or Standing Orders of any Parliament is solely the internal affair or prerogative of that Parliament to adopt or amend without being dictated to or subjected to external influence. And no single member of any Parliament anywhere has the power to unilaterally set aside Rules adopted by the Parliament except the plenary in session. These shenanigans should not be happening on South Africa’s soil which we see as a bastion of democracy in Africa. And how can this be happening at a time when the African Union has been admitted into the G-20? PAP should not be turned into a theater of absurdities.

Fortunately, both the Chairperson of the Pan-African Parliament’s Southern Regional Caucus, Hon. Pemmy Majodina and that of the PAP Committee on Rules, Privileges, Ethics and Discipline, Hon. T. Majola are members of South Africa’s delegation to the Pan-African Parliament.  


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