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

Working Group on African Union

01 September 2003
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Meeting report

WORKING GROUP ON THE AFRICAN UNION (National Assembly)
2 September 2003
DRAFT MINUTES

These minutes were produced kind courtesy of the Mr M Xaso of the Table Staff.

Chair: Dr F Ginwala

Present:
Speaker (Chairperson)
Deputy Speaker
Abrahams, T
Davies, R H
Hajaig, F
Mars, I
Rajbally, S
Turok, B

Apologies
: Seremane, J; Sithole, D J; Bapela, O; Van Wyk, A; Matthee, P A; Mtsweni, N S; Geldenhuys, B L.

Staff in attendance:
Meyer, L (Assistant Secretary); Jenkins, F and Lenzie, D (Parliamentary Law Advice Office); Mansura, K, Xaso, M and Adonis, J (NA Table); Gabriel, L (Information Services Unit).

1. Introduction
The Speaker indicated that the meeting would need to deliberate further on the election options of delegates to the PAP. She asked that the Working Group also discuss details around a planned debate on the PAP and the AU. Nepad issues would be discussed under the discussion on Parliamentary structures.

2. Minutes of 26 August 2003

The minutes were noted and members were asked to submit corrections, if any, to the Secretariat.

3. Consideration of draft 8th Report of the Working Group

Item 2 (meeting of African Parliaments):

The Speaker asked that the report should make reference to the outcome of the meeting of African Parliaments i.e the declaration. The decision of the AU Assembly, under item 3(1), should be linked to the declaration. She pointed out that Mr F X Njenga, Legal Adviser in the AU, had expressed the view that only twenty-five countries needed to ratify the Protocol for it to come into force. The Parliaments would follow the decision of the Heads of State (Assembly) with regard to the number of ratifications required for the coming into force of the Protocol. A Special Summit of the African Union would be convened in February 2003. She indicated that it was still unclear whether the Chairperson of the AU would, in the context of the Special Summit, also agree to convene an inaugural session of the PAP in January/February 2004.

The Department of Foreign Affairs had been informed that twenty-two countries had now ratified the Protocol. If the inaugural session took place after the Special AU Summit, and South Africa were to be the Seat, it would need to be held only after the general elections.

 

Agreed:

  • The Assistant Secretary to write to the AU to further clarify the exact number of ratifications needed for the Protocol to come into force.

Item 3(a) (Composition of the delegation):

Under political representation, options on party representation as outlined in the draft report should form part of the final report. However, the options should be rephrased to state party numerical strengths rather than names e.g largest party and next two parties.

Item 3 (a) (iv) (Executive representation)

The report should indicate that the exclusion of members of the Executive from Parliamentary delegations had always been the practice of the South African Parliament.

Item 3 (b) (Election of delegates)

The Speaker mentioned that this matter was not simply a procedural issue but also raised constitutional issues. She referred to the legal opinion by the Parliamentary Law Advisers on the matter. She indicated that the further point being raised by the legal opinion was whether in fact the NCOP should serve on the PAP. She asked that the matter be carefully considered. When asked to advise on the involvement of the NCOP in the PAP, Adv Jenkins indicated that Parliament consisted of two Houses. The Protocol also referred to Parliament rather than to a House. As far as competencies vis-à-vis the AU were concerned, all competencies remained with the national sphere of government. Only those competencies that were enumerated fell under provinces. However, given the function of the NCOP, being that it represented provinces in the national sphere of government, it did not seem that strictly speaking it would have a role to play in the PAP. The Speaker mentioned that the constitutions of both the SADC Parliamentary Forum and the Commonwealth Presiding Officers Forum did not give recognition to anything other than the equivalent of the National Assembly. The members of the other House could, however, attend the meetings of these bodies. There had been a discussion in the mid-1990s about the status of the second House in multilateral bodies. She explained that in other countries, however, powers over foreign affairs and the budget rested with the second House. It was therefore important that Parliament dealt with this issue in view of its participation in the PAP. The other question to be considered in this regard was whether a member of the NCOP could in fact represent Parliament. She said that the question of election of delegates was an internal Parliamentary matter which should be dealt with as such. Dr Davies indicated that the issue of participation by the other House needed a to be decided politically rather than through a constitutional process. In this regard, he suggested the establishment of a Joint Electoral Committee to deal with the issue of party and gender balance in the composition of the delegation. In response to Dr Davies, the Deputy Speaker expressed concern about the Working Group or Parliament even, making a political decision that could be in conflict with the constitution. Prof Turok indicated that the key issue, in his view, concerned the giving of mandates to the delegation. The Speaker responded that a joint accounting mechanism could be established to deal with the issue of mandates. The question was whether a PAP delegate, who, in terms of the South African Constitution, was unable to participate in decisions on foreign affairs issues, could take decisions on those issues at the PAP. Dr Davies suggested that discussions on the participation of the two Houses in the PAP should also take into account the fact that trade, unlike foreign relations, was a concurrent issue that involved both Houses.

 

Agreed:

  • The Report to be proceeded with and the whole section on the NCOP and the election procedure to be deferred.
  • The first paragraph dealing with Article 5 of the Protocol (election of delegates) to be retained and the second paragraph (dealing with a joint sitting) to be removed.
  • The Report to state that the Working Group would report further on the election procedure for delegates.

Item 3 (c) (Mandates, accountability and reporting mechanisms)

The Speaker explained that it had been previously agreed that a committee would be established to process all issues relating to the AU. She said that a SADC Parliamentary Assembly would be established in the course of 2004. Consideration should therefore be given to the inclusion of SADC issues as part of the responsibilities of this envisaged committee. She indicated that the Joint Subcommittee on International Relations was not considering the substance of issues, and therefore would not be suitable to perform this task. The focus groups of the Joint Subcommittee could deal with the issue, but, this could give rise to overlapping of issues. She said that generally Parliament had been experiencing difficulty in dealing with cross-sectoral issues due to structural problems. She made reference to Mr Lilienfeld's document which raised the question of whether the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs could deal with issues emanating from the AU. The question was whether the Portfolio Committee would have the time to deal with the issue, given its busy schedule. Dr Davies indicated that the Portfolio Committee's responsibilities included the exercise of oversight over the conduct of the Executive in foreign affairs, which includes the AU. However, the structure being mooted would oversee the work of parliamentary delegates at the PAP. He suggested that a separate committee to deal with this issue should be established. The Deputy Speaker agreed, adding that a separate structure from the PC on Foreign Affairs would be appropriate for this function. She added that Parliament also needed to consider an integrated approach to parliamentary committees. However, this process was more likely to occur after the general elections in 2004.

Mr Cassim suggested that the envisaged committee should emanate from the Rules Committee so that the Presiding Officers could have a direct role to play in it rather than it being accountable to a government department. The Speaker responded that parliamentary committees were not accountable to government departments. Instead, committees' responsibilities included the exercise of oversight over government departments. The committee being envisaged would not be overseeing a government department. Its role would be confined to issues emanating both from the PAP or SADC Parliament and some of these issues could concern a number of government departments. If a committee obtained its mandate from the House, it could neither report to the Rules Committee nor to the Presiding Officers but to the House. Mrs Mbuyazi enquired whether the committee could also consider issues emanating from the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The Speaker responded that the IPU was different in operation from both the PAP and the SADC Parliament. Both these bodies would ultimately become law-making bodies and delegates serving on them would need to have definite mandates. Dr Davies also pointed out that the PAP and SADC were regional bodies dealing with regional powers and therefore would operate differently from the IPU.

The Speaker indicated that South Africa would be one of the first countries to be reviewed in terms of the African Peer Review Mechanism, adding that members should consider whether this committee should also deal with Nepad issues. Dr Davies stated that he had been under the impression that previously the Working Group had agreed that Nepad issues would not be dealt with by this committee. The Speaker clarified that she had stated previously that the current mandate of the Working Group did not cover Nepad issues and by that she was not referring to the envisaged committee. Ms Hajaig suggested that the Working Group should also consider how other African Parliaments dealt with Nepad issues. The Deputy Speaker mentioned that it was important to create an understanding that Nepad was a programme of the AU. Prof Turok agreed, adding that both the AU and Nepad should be considered in an integrated manner. Dr Davies suggested that a quick decision needed to be taken on the Parliamentary structure to deal with Nepad issues and on how the structure would interact with all the other Parliamentary committees.

The Speaker mentioned that at the APRM meeting, which she had recently attended, references were made to the establishment of a national committee for Nepad. A report in this regard was awaited from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

 

Agreed:

  • The report to make reference to the committee, without giving it a specific name.
  • The House to determine the committee, define its terms of reference, reporting and accountability mechanisms and time-frames.
  • The committee to also consider issues emanating from the SADC Parliamentary Forum.
  • The next meeting of the Working Group meeting to discuss the composition of the committee and whether it should be established now or at the start of the new Parliament in 2004.
  • Parties to consider whether Nepad should fall within the envisaged committee and give feedback at the next meeting.
  • Prof Turok and Dr Davies to specifically consider a parliamentary structure to deal with Nepad issues.
  • Prof Turok to follow up with the DFA on the establishment of a national committee for Nepad.
  • A brief document to be produced on what Nepad is.

 

 Section 3 (d) (Oath of Office)

The Speaker clarified that the suggestion at the previous meeting was that the current oath should be amended to reflect that it should provide for affirmation of loyalty to African Unity rather than to the PAP. The amendment of the oath would necessitate a constitutional amendment. The Deputy Speaker sought clarity on whether members should not commit their loyalty to the Constitutive Act of the African Union. The Speaker expressed concern about requiring members to commit themselves to another instrument where the possibility remained that in five years time South Africa could disagree with future amendments.

 

Agreed:

  • The Oath for the 2004 Parliamentarians should include the concept of loyalty and commitment to African Unity.
  • The Law Advisers to assist in formulating inclusion of this concept in the report.

4. Mandates, accountability and accountability mechanisms

 

Agreed:

  • Staff to integrate issues raised in research report by Peter Lilienfeld for the purposes of an agenda.

5. Regional mechanisms

The Speaker mentioned that regardless of when the meeting of the PAP would take place, Parliament needed to consider the establishment of a SADC caucus for the PAP. A number of issues currently being discussed by the Working Group and Parliament would also need to be discussed by the SADC PF. At present the SADC PF was the only mechanism available to discuss these issues at a regional level.

 

Agreed:

  • Report of the SADC PF meeting in Botswana to be circulated.

6. Popularisation of the PAP and AU

The Speaker indicated that both the 8th report of the Working Group and documentation on the vision of the PAP could be used as the basis of a debate on the AU and the PAP. Prof Turok suggested that the financing of Nepad and the Nepad programme itself could also be raised in the debate. Country budgets should henceforth take the Nepad programme into account, as there was no external funding for the APRM. The Speaker expressed reservations about the readiness of the members to debate Nepad before a detailed discussion was held within the Working Group. She suggested that, instead, the issue could be raised with the Joint Budget Committee and be debated as part of its processes. The Deputy Speaker suggested that the debate should focus on the Pan African Parliament and its implications for Parliament. Dr Davies proposed that the debate be opened by a comprehensive statement by the Speaker, to be followed by inputs from other members. It should also concentrate on issues that were of interest to the Public rather than technical issues.

 

Agreed:

  • Details of the debate to be finalized at the next meeting of the Working Group.
  • After the meeting of 9 September the Joint Budget Committee to be requested to discuss the APRM.
  • After the meeting of 16 September a ninth report to be tabled.

6. Seminar

The Speaker indicated that a seminar should be convened before the end of 2004.

Agreed:

    • Seminar to be arranged during the committee week in the fourth quarter.
    • The seminar to be internal to Parliament

7. Report by Prof B Turok on Nepad meeting

Prof Turok indicated that during various meetings of Parliamentarians held in the past, it became clear that most Parliamentarians were still ignorant about Nepad issues. He said that Prof W Nkuhlu approached him, requesting that a meeting of selected Parliamentarians be convened to discuss how Parliamentarians could be better briefed and informed on Nepad issues. Awepa funded the meeting. The meeting was held in Nairobi, Kenya and attended by representatives from fifteen countries. The list of speakers included Prof W Nkuhlu, Minister of Planning in Kenya, Prof A Adedeji, Prof S Gutto, Dr E Moloko. Each of the speakers dealt with different issues. The recommendation from the meeting was that a Contact Group be established to process Nepad issues. Prof Nkuhlu compiled a memorandum on the Contact Group proposing that the Group should act as personal champions and promoters of Nepad and also advise the Steering Committee on measures to put Nepad on the agenda of African Parliaments. The Contact Group would serve as an informal contact mechanism to Parliaments on behalf of the Steering Committee. Part of the decision was that each African Parliament should endorse and promote Nepad. Parliaments were also asked to establish Working Committees on Nepad. The Deputy Speaker pointed out that one of the strongly expressed criticisms of the Nepad process was its silence on gender issues. Prof Turok responded that there were a number of women at the meeting, however, he agreed that it was important for gender issues to be permanently put on the agenda of Nepad. The Speaker expressed concern about the proposal regarding the establishment of a Contact Group by the meeting. She indicated that she could not recall a single instance whereby the Steering Committee had ever written to Parliament asking for Parliamentary participation. She said that she had been involved in Nepad issues on her own initiative. If the Steering Committee was, in its communication with Parliaments, not getting feedback, there would be a need for champions and promoters of Nepad. She said that she would be weary of Parliament appointing champions. Institutional links with Nepad would be the preferred route to follow in this regard. Dr Davies indicated that there was a need for clarity on the roles of other existing structures that had been established with a view to promote the Nepad initiative. The Deputy Speaker said that if Nepad wanted to interact with Parliaments, it should approach the matter through the respective Presiding Officers. Mr Abrahams sought clarity on communication links between the Nepad Steering Committee and the AU. The Speaker responded that within the AU, Nepad issues were discussed by the Assembly of the Heads of States. The original decision to establish a development agenda came from the OAU. The Presidents of Nigeria, Algeria and South Africa were asked to formulate a continental development agenda. She expressed further concern about South African Parliamentarians who affiliated to these bodies without receiving a mandate from Parliament. The consequence of these affiliations, sometimes, resulted in Parliament being asked to make membership contributions.

Prof Turok explained that the Contact Group was an ad hoc structure aimed at achieving momentum on Nepad issues. He raised the point that sometimes Nepad documents were not made available due to lack of funds. The idea of getting a person from the EU to produce the documents on behalf of Nepad had been mooted. The Speaker responded that both the EU and the World Bank had offered financial support for Nepad. She expressed concerns about the possibility of asking the EU to produce documents on behalf of Nepad, adding that this approach could be politically problematical. Dr Davies suggested that Nepad base documents could be produced under the logo of the AU. Prof Turok indicated that Nepad had in fact been producing documents, however, it lacked the resources to produce them in bulk.

 

Agreed:

  • The matter to be discussed at the meeting of 9 September.
  • The discussion on a Parliamentary structure to deal with Nepad issues also to be discussed.
  • The Report from the Nepad meeting in Benin to be discussed by the Working Group.

The meeting adjourned at 09:50.

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