Picture: Pan African Parliament – Chief Fortune Zephaniah Charumbira is the President of the Pan African Parliament. After a tumultuous aborted election in 2021, in 2022 Africa sorted out her differences, perceived and real, resulting in the election of Charumbira uncontested yet fully supported, significant in signalling purpose of intent as the organisation moves towards image restoration and capacitation of MPs, the writer says.
By Don Makubaza
The Pan African Parliament (PAP) descends on Midrand Gallagher from Monday, August 22 to September 2, convening committee work and strategic re-orientation workshops for members of the PAP under the themes “Reviving, Renewing, Repositioning and Reinvigorating the Pan African Parliament” and “Building resilience in nutrition on the African continent: Accelerate the human capital, social and economic development,” respectively.
From the running leitmotifs, it is clear that propelling the agenda of the organisation forward is uppermost, there is little doubt that the eyes of the world will be glued on the legislative body. The mandate of the PAP and the development and transformative agenda of the Continent are intertwined and to this end, the conventions this week should set the tone and complexion of how the development will be achieved. Yet, the question still on many people’s minds is to what extent has PAP turned the corner in fostering unity of purpose as ushered in by a new administration led by Chief Fortune Zephaniah Charumbira.
It will be remembered that the 2021 abortive election characterised by ugly scenes of kicking and shoving left a blight on the image of PAP, and gave ammunition to misconceptions of a Continent incapable of conducting herself well. However, redemption came in the June 2022 elections, which were a totally different spectacle, as Africa sorted out her differences, perceived and real, resulting in the election of Charumbira uncontested yet fully supported, significant in signalling purpose of intent as the organisation moves towards image restoration and capacitation of MPs.
PAP passed its first major test in July, yet MPs work is cut out for them as they begin real work in earnest, exertion that is expected to transform the fortunes of the Continent. In his acceptance speech, Charumbira bemoaned the imaginary divide brought about as a result of a colonial legacy. The language divide is so real to an extent that geographically, nation states across the continent identify themselves distinctly by the language of former colonisers, and this has been the bane of the Continent and more specifically PAP.
In any given case, it is now common cause that the ructions of 2021 were brought about by geographical boundaries refusing to budge on the issue of rotation, up until African Union Heads of States had to intervene by sending Moussa Faki to superintendent over the plebiscite, cajoling the protagonists to a unity of purpose. Hence, it is of paramount importance for Charumbira to galvanise the Continent together and ensure that the every region has a sense of belonging, the ‘them and us’ syndrome must be banished as a matter of urgency. Africa is one, and a united Africa will achieve more. The new administration could seriously consider introducing cross pollination of languages across the continent by insisting that governments cogitate on the introduction of various languages in local curriculum, languages that are hitherto foreign to those nations. For example, Anglophone countries could insist on French and Portuguese in schools, likewise Francophone and Portuguese also introduce different languages and so forth. The net effect could be the collapse of language barriers as MPs from across the continent converge in Midrand.
Further to this and perhaps most importantly, for a very long time, Swahili has been touted as a close reflection of a language that all Africans can identify with. It is high time the language is then promoted to catalyse the attainment of continental unity, in any given case, Chinua Achebe poignantly notes that to speak a language is to carry a culture. Whose culture then are we carrying at PAP?
Another topical issue that will define the current epoch revolves around what has been the bane of PAP for a very long time, the lack of bite within the institution. PAP should move from being an ornamental entity, to a functional one with fully fledged powers, endowed with influences that are legally binding to the extent that decisions can be compulsory to all and sundry. Without this important caveat, as enshrined within the Malabo Protocol, PAP will not be able to leave any meaningful legacy on the livelihoods of its people. Future generations will look at the institution and wonder why it was not making concrete steps to galvanise the Continent, at a time astute and visionary leadership was needed. If the Malabo Protocol were to be ratified by all, it could be a precursor to a truly united Africa!
Image restoration is an important aspect as PAP charts the way forward in its operations. There is little doubt that the events of 2021 thrust to the fore deep divisions and elements of mistrust within the continental body. In this vein, it is apparent then that image is fundamental. Currently the image of PAP needs urgent restoration through robust communication strategies that will cast the institution in a positive light. The image of PAP is intrinsically linked to development partners, who are an important facet in oiling the operations of the organisation. Development partners shy away from institutions that have a blighted image. To this end, the promulgation of a communication strategy that spells out a concise roadmap for interconnecting with stakeholders must be given priority. As it stands, PAP does not have a discernible digital footprint and this is an anomaly.
Another salient topic to be addressed relates to engendering issues related to formerly marginalised demographic groups including but not limited to women, youth, people living with disabilities, as well as the elderly. While significant gains have been made in enunciation of laws that protect the groups in question, more should be done to consolidate the gains made thus far.
Lastly, as Africa begins to gain economic momentum after the debilitating slumber brought about by the exigencies of Covid-19, PAP should be at the forefront of championing the recovery across the continent, in letter and in spirit. The work for PAP legislators is cut out for them, it is a mammoth task, but not an insurmountable one.
Don Makubaza is director in public relations, parliament of Zimbabwe. He has a post graduate diploma in public relations and an Msc in Journalism and Media Studies