PAP Crisis: Gayo panics as SADC PF holds Extraordinary Meeting to adopt common position - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Wednesday, January 24, 2024

PAP Crisis: Gayo panics as SADC PF holds Extraordinary Meeting to adopt common position

An Extraordinary Meeting of the SADC Parliamentary Forum Executive Committee and Speakers of SADC PF Member Parliaments to address the leadership crisis at the Pan African Parliament (PAP) has been scheduled to hold on 01 February 2024. The meeting will be hosted by the Parliament of South Africa and will take place at the Century City Conference Centre, Cape Town, in the Republic of South Africa.

Reacting to the development, PAP Second Vice President, Hon. Dr. Ashebir W. Gayo described the planned meeting as interference by the SADC PF in the internal affairs of the PAP.

But the SADC PF is said to have ignored Dr. Gayo’s objection and will proceed with the meeting. According to the source, “Dr. Gayo cannot dictate to the SADC PF how to conduct its business or what to do. We will not allow him to extend his dictatorial big brother attitude to the SADC PF”.

According to the SADC PF “The decision to convene the Extraordinary Meeting stems from a submission made by the Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, Hon. Nosiviwe Mapisa- Nqakula, who is the Host Speaker of the PAP. In her submission, Hon. Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula emphasized the urgency of the crisis at the PAP, requiring the attention of all SADC Member Parliaments. This urgency is heightened by the fact that the presidency of the PAP is presently held by a Member of Parliament from a SADC Member Parliament on behalf of the region, in accordance with the rotational principle”.

“In light of these circumstances, Hon. Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula called on the Executive Committee and Speakers of SADC PF Member Parliaments to engage in an endeavour to resolve this matter for the greater good of the region and the continent.”

According to the statement, the meeting has been deliberately convened ahead of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government scheduled for 14th – 18th February 2024 which is expected to deliberate and map the way forward on the crisis at the PAP.

“It is envisaged, therefore, that the resolutions arising from this Extraordinary Meeting will be tabled to the respective SADC Heads of State for consideration and possibly to guide deliberations at the AU Assembly.”

Hon. Dr. Gayo’s reaction to the SADC PF extraordinary meeting, through his self-appointed Acting Clerk, is ill-advised. Pundits have wondered how a meeting convened by a body that includes the Speakers of National Parliaments of SADC countries to discuss the situation at PAP could be described as interference. They posit that the Members of the Pan-African Parliament, according to Article 5.1 of the PAP Protocol, are designated by the respective National Parliaments of Member States in accordance with the national laws of such Member States. The tenure of members of the respective members of National Parliament is determined according to the electoral laws and Constitutions of Member States. The doctrine of sovereign equality of states, recognized by Article 4.a of the Constitutive Act of the African Union, precludes Dr. Gayo or indeed any other AUC official from contesting or interfering with such designations.

Pundits also note that the activities of the Members of the Pan-African Parliaments are funded through the National Parliaments of Member States such that the Speakers of National Parliaments have a legitimate interest to convene meetings to discuss issues relating to the crisis at PAP and take a common position. That is the beauty and essence of democracy. They advised that instead of attacking or seeing the meeting as interference, Dr. Gayo should have tried to secure an audience to address the meeting.

On the role of the “Acting Clerk”, they posit that as the head of the Secretariat, the Clerk should ensure that the Rules of Procedure of the Pan-African Parliament are adhered to. He should not lend the office to become a willing tool that will be used to trample upon the Rules. For example, Rule 6(5) states: “Where the National Parliament or any other deliberative organ of a Member State notifies the Clerk that the status of the elected or designated Member has become incompatible with membership of Parliament, the Clerk shall notify the Bureau and the President shall declare before the House that the membership of the person has been terminated”

They thus wondered whether the “Acting Clerk” received any communication from the Parliament of Zimbabwe informing PAP that Hon. Chief Fortune Charumbira’s status is no longer compatible with membership of the Pan-African Parliament. Can he also point to any record of proceedings of PAP where such vacancy was declared before the plenary? Does he not appreciate that there are procedural safeguards to ensure that declarations of vacancies are not made to achieve narrow political objectives as is currently the case?

The President of the Parliament, Hon. Fortune Charumbira ran for and won re-election on 23 August 2023 and the Parliament of Zimbabwe has since September 2023, written to confirm his continued and uninterrupted designation to the Pan-African Parliament. So PAP is bound by Articles 4.2 and 5.1 of the PAP Protocol to accept the designation of the members designated by the Parliament of Zimbabwe to PAP. All the frivolous allegations against him cannot stop his resumption of office as only the members of the Pan-African Parliament who overwhelmingly gave him their mandate can withdraw the mandate if allegations of misconduct against him are established, supported by two-thirds of all Pan-African Parliamentarians.

Once a plenary session of the Parliament is convened, oath will be administered before any other business including before any election is conducted. All country delegations must without exception be sworn in. All the scheming and manipulations to exclude some people from the activities of the Parliament is bound to fail. Compliance with the provisions of Rule 37 on “Sequence of Proceedings and Order Paper” is mandatory.  Rule 37 states:

Rule 37: Sequence of proceedings and Order Paper

(1)         The proceedings of the House shall, where applicable, be conducted in the following sequence:

(a)          opportunity for silent prayer or meditation;

(b)         communication from the chair;

(c)          administration of oath;

(d)         election of President and/or Vice-Presidents;

(e)          petitions;

(f)           papers;

(g)         notices of motion;

(h)         questions of which notice has been given; and

(i)           business of the day.

(2)         The Clerk shall prepare the Order Paper setting out the sequence of proceedings and order of business and shall circulate it at least four hours before the commencement of the session.

Chairpersons of the five Regional Caucuses at PAP have also punctured Dr. Gayo’s claim that amendments to the PAP Rules of Procedure “were adopted in haste and without meeting the quorum threshold in the plenary, timed strategically before the elections in Zimbabwe, DR Congo, and South Africa”. One of the Chairpersons described the allegation as baseless and most uncharitable especially coming from someone who was a member of the Bureau at the time the amendments were adopted.

According to the Regional Caucus Chairpersons, the “amendment of the Rules of Procedure by the Pan African Parliament was undertaken in furtherance and in compliance with numerous Executive Council Decisions including EX.CL/1364(XLI) of July 2022 that directed PAP to “urgently review the Rules of Procedure to ensure alignment with African Union values, rules and regulations as well as established practices of the Union, including the principle of geographical rotation”. Other Executive Council decisions include EX.CL/Dec.979(XXXI), EX.CL/Dec.1018(XXXII) and EX.CL/Dec.1128(XXXIX) that reiterated the application of the African Union values, rules, and regulations in managing all activities of the Organ, including the principle of geographical rotation of the members of the Bureau inclusive of the Presidency”.

They also state that it is a matter of record that the Executive Council in Decision EX.CL/Dec.1198(XLII) commended the PAP for the resumption of work following the June 2022 elections of the Bureau and appreciated the activities implemented by the Pan-African Parliament within a short time period in 2022, in spite of limited budgetary resources. These activities included the adoption of amendments to the Rules of Procedure in compliance with numerous Executive Council decisions dating back to 2016.

In a recent memo to the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC), the Regional Caucus Chairpersons wrote: “In order to get back on track, it is important to underscore and recognize the fact that there was no crisis at PAP when the amended Rules of Procedure of the Pan African Parliament were suspended by the Chairperson of the AUC. In fact, indisputable evidence, including the commendations by the Executive Council, supports the fact that the Bureau was united in pursuit of their mandate”.

“Even the Minister of International Relations and Co-operation of the Republic of South Africa, Hon. Naledi Pandor, in officially opening the PAP-PRC Retreat in December 2022, commended the leadership of the Pan African Parliament under Hon. Chief Fortune Charumbira, for steering the PAP towards a positive trajectory that sought to enhance the institution’s effectiveness in the continental governance matrix and its responsiveness to the ideals, hopes and aspirations of the people of Africa.”

“The seeds of the current crisis were sown when a deliberately misleading and malicious complaint was filed by Hon Dr Gayo whose quest for the Presidency of PAP, against the principle of geographical rotation, pushed him to truncate the leadership with a self-manufactured and manipulated dispute. Regrettably, he was aided in his nefarious agenda by the AUC whose authority and jurisdiction over PAP’s internal Rules of Procedure or interpretation of the Protocol are disputable”.

“The amendment of the PAP Rules was borne out of the need to enable the PAP to address the institutional instability and uncertainty arising from National Parliamentary transitions and in fact, give practical application to those provisions in the PAP Protocol and the Rules of Procedure that relate to the Status of Members of Parliament as encompassed in Article 12(8) of the Protocol and Rule 8(1) of the Rules of Procedure. The language of the contested provisions of Article 5 of the PAP Protocol is the same as the language of the amended Rule 8(1)(e), while Article 12 of the Protocol is the same as Rule 8(8)(e) of the Amended Rules”.

It is noted that according to their respective Rules of Procedure, the Decisions of the Assembly and the Executive Council are binding on all the organs, departments, agencies and Member States of the AU, including the Pan-African Parliament. Does PAP require quorum to comply with the decisions of the policy organs of the AU? In any case, the record of attendance on 04 November 2022 will show that there was indeed quorum.

It is regrettable that since 2016 when the initial directive was issued by the Executive Council, the AUC Chairperson did not make any effort to get PAP to amend her Rules of Procedure. Even when the Executive Council in October 2021 specifically directed that PAP’s 2022 Bureau election be conducted in South Africa observing rotation, the AUC Chairperson delayed the implementation of the directive until he was forced to comply by the Bureau of the Assembly.. But he was quick to intervene and override compliance with the Council’s directive to urgently amend the Rules of Procedure of PAP.


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