The Pan African Parliament chamber in Midrand, South Africa Picture: Supplied/PAP
By Siyabonga Mkhwanazi
As Zimbabwean senator Chief Fortune Charumbira builds on his new role as President of the Pan African Parliament (PAP), the recent elections have also seen the emergence of two senior lawmakers from South Africa taking up key positions.
Thembekile Majola, a member of the Democratic Alliance (DA) was elected to head up PAP’s rules committee, while fellow South African politician and ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina was elected to lead PAP’s southern region caucus.
The key positions were filled amid PAP facing a great deal of challenges last month as Parliamentarians fought over the rotation of the PAP Presidency.
Members also raised questions on how PAP ought to benefit constituencies in Africa and the southern African region as a whole.
Amid the election of PAP’s leadership, Southern region legislators accused those from the Western, Eastern and Central regions of neglecting the rules of the house and seeking to immerse their own narratives and agendas – saying that regional rotation was sacrosanct in moving PAP forward.
Fairness is what they advocated for.
The results that have been achieved thus far mean that this is the first time that southern Africa will have a representative to lead PAP.
Speaking to The African this week, Majola has highlighted the issues that have sparked intense debate and why his role as head of the rules committee is vital in dealing with issues of rotation going forward to avoid conflict within the organisation.
“What I have to do now is to deal with the rules, that the rules reflect rotation so that at the next election we don’t fight. PAP is very important to all African countries, we are sitting with countries with health issues, there is hunger and there are coups. As South Africa, we play a significant role in fighting all this,” he says.
Equally, he believes that unity in Africa and between senior leaders remains a key component in PAP.
“The only way of having unity is to ensure that there is rotation. The AU (African Union) emphasised this in 2017 that to have unity let us rotate. We are one of the organs of the AU. If you look at all the organs of the AU they handle the issue of rotation. We are on the right track, in the next election the Northern region can take over there,” Majola says.
Corruption and lack of governance
The issue of oversight by members of PAP across the continent and the need to tackle corruption and stop it from spreading like a cancer and affecting governance, must be highlighted at all times, Majola says.
“Corruption is one of the devils we need to deal with (as a continent). People affected by corruption must speak out.”
Back in 2015, it emerged that corruption in Africa was manifesting vastly.
A report by Transparency International says that “nearly 75 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are estimated to have paid a bribe in the past year (2015) – some to escape punishment by the police or courts…”
In another report, Transparency International says: “2020 proved to be one of the worst years in recent history, with the outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic and that the pandemic was not just a health and economic crisis, but a corruption crisis as well, with countless lives lost due to the insidious effects of corruption undermining a fair and equitable global response.”
It also added that “reports of corruption during Covid-19 have reverberated across the globe”.
Meanwhile, on the historical injustices that African countries have faced at the hands of colonisers and exploitation and later the greed and impunity shown by some African leaders, Majola hastens to say that many countries have a wealth of resources but that money has been taken by the elites and not been used for development and other important projects.
He says that there are countries that have had no choice, but need to ramp up their infrastructure, healthcare systems and other initiatives. Instead, malfeasance has robbed citizens of such benefits.
It is time, he says, people on the continent speak out and address corruption consistently as this will give them an opportunity to move forward.
Conflict in Africa
There is a call for members of PAP to be present and vocal as means of aiding regions facing conflict.
One of the main agendas tabled before PAP is silencing the guns in Africa and Majola indicates there is an immediate need to address conflicts, insurgency and the rise of coups in Africa.
“The only way to deal with this issue is to talk to the leadership, how to silence the guns. We have to sit down and deal with these issues. We need to sit down (and find out) who is behind this, who is funding these things in Africa? There are people who are behind this because of their interests,” he says.
According to him, there needs to be efforts to dig down and find out the root causes of these conflicts in Africa and that there will always be ways in which PAP works closely with the AU and other international bodies in areas of trade, development and other projects.
“We are the organ of the AU. We are accountable to the AU, and we always meet with the AU,” he says.
On the other hand, Majodina has hailed Majolas’ election as important.
“The Rules Committee is one of the key committees in the Pan African Parliament. We are sitting with the issue of the Rules itself that need to be changed, so that will be the first thing I have to deal with,” Majola says, adding that he will also “need to make sure that there is stability in this institution”.
“When I am talking about stability I am talking about administration, as (we) we’re here for three … five days you will see meetings have been called for 9 o’ clock but they start at 11 o’ clock. It must be a Parliament like other Parliaments,” Majodina says.
Mkhwanazi is a current affairs editor