Draft Minutes of the Meeting of the Working Group on the African Union

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

31 July 2002


Chairperson: Ms F Ginwala (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Draft Report on the OAU/ African summit in Durban (for access by MPs only)

There was a discussion on the meeting of African Parliaments and the African Union Summit. There were suggestions that South Africa should host the African Parliament so that other countries could learn from South Africa.

The Chairperson said she would like to discuss what kind of reports should be prepared to report back to the Parliament. Should they be detailed reports or merely records of everything. She also asked the number of the African Parliaments.

She noted that they should discuss the declaration that was drawn up during the Summit. She also said that a Committee should be formed to monitor the progress of the African Union.

A Member noted that representatives of other African Parliaments indicated their acceptance of the African Parliament as their national Parliaments would learn from it. He also said that there should be more interaction between the South African Parliament and the other African Parliaments as the South African Parliament is more advanced. South Africa should host the African Parliament so that the other countries could learn from South Africa.

Another Member said he found it commendable and laudable that other Parliaments like the one of Lesotho find it easier to work to work efficiently despite diverse ideological thinking. These countries show unity in diversity and their example should be followed.

Another Member said the Parliaments of the other African countries do not have the infrastructure. She asked if South Africa is unable to help these Parliaments by applying to the Commonwealth Parliamentary assistance body.

The Chairperson said that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Assistance Committee looked at the matter. South Africa is not going to spoon-feed the MPs from these Parliaments as this was widely advertised. But there should be another way to raise awareness to these Parliaments that there is help available. The South African Parliament can organise Parliamentary visits to these countries so that these Parliaments can learn from the South African Parliament.

Another Member said that they should help these Parliaments by showing them the practical side of things, that is, how the Parliament works on a daily basis. Another Member emphasised that this is important as some other countries could also take responsibility when it comes to African issues so that it is not only South Africa that always take the lead.

The Chairperson said that this matter should be put on the agenda of the next Parliament sitting, as it is important. She also said that there is a delegation from Kenya that is coming to South Africa. The parties should discuss who meet with the delegation and what will be discussed in that meeting.

She noted that South Africa should empower the other African Parliaments and not disempower them. South Africa should support the building of democracy in Africa. She also said that some of the parties have not ratified the Protocol of the African Parliament as they thought they had to ratify only the African Union only. It also took South Africa eighteen years to ratify the protocol.

The Chairperson said that Mr Bramdeo must give the report to the Members.

Mr Bramdeo: Deputy Director, Africa Multilaterals: Department of Foreign Affairs, said that the report deals with substantive and not logistic issues that were discussed at the Summit.

Mr Bramdeo gave the report to the Members. He looked at the considerations of the reports on the implementation of Lusaka decision report of the Director General. He referred Members to the Annexure B at the end of the report.

Mr Bramdeo looked at the proposed amendments to Articles of the Constitutive Act of the African Union. The proposals related to the role of the Chairperson of the Assembly, the ability of any member to call extra-ordinary sessions and preventing the possibility of any member withdrawing its membership from the African union.

However, the proposals came late and Members did not have enough time to consider them. The Members decided that the proposals for amendments would be submitted to the interim commission of the Union, which would in turn distribute them to member states.

Mr Bramdeo said that there were also other issues that were decided which were not directly linked to the African Union and are found on page six of the report.

Mr Bramdeo looked at the proposals that were made by the other African countries. Gabon presented a draft declaration proclaiming a decade of capacity building in Africa. This Declaration was adopted. Mali presented a status report on the global alliance for vaccines and immunisation. This declaration was also adopted. Libya proposed the establishment of a single African Army, For the purpose of securing peace and stability in the African Union. This proposal was received at short notice and the member states had no time to consider the implications of this proposal.

Mr Cassim said that the fact that Libya is the only country offering to host the African Parliament could be a problem. He asked about the dangers that can be faced if Libya were to host the African Parliament and what could be done to overcome such problems.

A Member asked if there are any amendments to the Constitutive Act except for those proposed by Libya.

Mr Bramdeo said that if Libya hosted the African Parliament the fact that there are some questions about democracy in Libya could be problematic. Libya's claims that they are a democracy are not widely accepted. South Africa believes that they have the most advanced democracy in the continent and if the AU is to be taken seriously, the African Parliament is better hosted by the country that is internationally recognised for its democracy.

On the issue of other amendments, Mr Bramdeo said that Senegal has some proposals to make but has not come forward with them.

The Chairperson said that it would be useful to have the documents that have already been adopted as they only have draft copies at present. She also said that the media have been asking why Madagascar was not accepted as a member of the AU if Zimbabwe is accepted to the AU. The public has to know that these are different cases. Madagascar was suspended as a member of the OAU and Zimbabwe was not suspended. If a country was a member of the OAU, that country would gain automatic membership of the AU and that is how Zimbabwe got membership of the AU.

Mr Bramdeo noted the suggestion by the Minister of Foreign Affairs that South Africa should host the African Parliament.

The Chairperson noted that Parliament could look at that proposal if this is what the Minister suggested.

A Member cautioned that South Africa should be aware of the fact that it could be seen as dominating Africa.

It was suggested that Parliament look at the implications that can arise from hosting the African Parliament and also looking at the domestic implications that South Africa already faces such as the financial implications.

The Chairperson acknowledged that South Africa would look at the implications but she took it for granted that they would take one of the organs, at least, since they were already in the lead.

Another Member said that they should make the public more aware of the AU and the benefits that it will bring to the general public.

The Chairperson said that it is up to the MPs to take the issue of the AU to the public. But the expectations of the public should not be raised that the benefits would come overnight.

The meeting was adjourned.


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