Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum & Pan-African Parliament: briefings

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Meeting report

ECONOMIC AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE

ECONOMIC AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
30 August 2005
SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY PARLIAMENTARY FORUM AND PAN-AFRICAN PARLIAMENT: DEPARTMENT BRIEFINGS

Chairperson:
Ms N Ntwanambi (ANC, Western Cape)

Document:
Report of the third ordinary session of the Pan African Parliament: Recommendations

SUMMARY
The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs briefed the Committee on the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) and the Pan-African Parliament. Both structures were significantly promoting the advancement of women; the key to African development. The SADC Parliamentary Forum and the Pan-African Parliament were dedicated to the promotion of sustainable development, good governance and the observation of human rights and the rule of law.

The Committee encouraged future briefings by the National Assembly (NA) in the hope that it would increase communication between the NA and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). It was concerned about the effect SADC would have on the economy of South Africa and the financial implications of hosting the Pan-African Parliament. It also enquired how the discontent surrounding the promotion of women could be overcome. The Committee also questioned the aim of creating a common market and currency in the SADC region. Lastly, it hoped that the NA would soon also brief the Committee on the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

MINUTES

SADC Parliamentary Forum briefing
Due to an incorrectly advertised starting time, PMG missed the first few minutes of the meeting where Mrs Hajaig (ANC), Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs, gave a short description of the SADC Parliamentary Forum. The SADC PF was a regional organisation that brought together 12 Parliaments in Southern Africa and represented 1 800 Members of Parliament. Current membership consisted of the National Parliaments of 12 member states: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Forum consisted of the Presiding Officers and three representatives elected by each National Parliament. The main objective of the Forum was to develop into a regional Parliament.

Mrs Hajaig said that it was extremely important that women should be included in the SADC Parliamentary Forum’s membership. Women made up 52% of Africa’s population which meant that to exclude women from the Forum would severely affect the development of Africa. It was therefore important that women should be empowered and trained. Rwanda was a good example of how human spirit could be elevated to promote women. The recent elections in Rwanda led to women making up 48% of its Parliament. In the past, men had created wars in Africa, yet women and children were the ones who suffered most. This would end due to the new movement in Africa that pushed the boundaries of even Europe and America regarding the empowerment and inclusion of women in government.

The main aim of the SADC treaty was to ensure that Africa enjoyed sustainable development, promoted good governance and observed human rights and the rule of law. The SADC Parliamentary Forum as well as the SADC treaty and constitution showed that these factors formed the basis for development in Africa. The most important job of the SADC Parliamentary Forum was to monitor elections in Southern African countries. What was important to note was that the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) had requested that the SADC Parliamentary Forum be created. The reason for this was that it was much easier to deal with one regional Parliament or caucus than a number of Parliaments from the various Southern African countries.

The Protocol of the PAP had been accepted in Pretoria. An agreement had been reached where five delegates from each African country would make up the membership of this Parliament. At least one of the five delegates from each country had to be a woman. A number of mock Parliaments had been held in South Africa to see how the real PAP would function and to determine what would need to be done in order to promote African development. South Africa made it clear that countries that did not send women were not welcome. South Africa sent three women out of its five delegates to these mock Parliaments. What was important to note was that these three women had been chosen on merit and were instrumental in showing South Africa’s commitment to African development.

The PAP would have no legislative powers for the first five years. After that, a review would take place on a number of issues. When the protocol was signed a number of the more populous African countries argued that it was unfair that all countries, regardless of their size, were allowed five delegates to be members of the Parliament. These countries requested that a workable formula should be created to fairly determine the number of delegates that different-sized countries were allowed. The PAP consisted of a number of committees that were similar to the committees of the South African Parliament.

The first formal meeting of the PAP took place in Addis Ababa and had been ceremonial in nature. At this meeting, it was decided that South Africa should host the PAP. Egypt and Nigeria had wanted to host the Parliament. However, South African won this right due to its commitment to development that had been evident in the last eleven years.

The second session had been held in South Africa at Gallagher Estate which was a temporary venue. This session had been extremely exciting as it was the first time that African countries had come together in a forum to learn about each other. This was especially important to South Africa as Apartheid had led to the country being isolated from Africa to a great extent. The committees and their membership had also been established at this session. A problem arose surrounding how the rules of the PAP would work. This was difficult as the different traditions of all the African countries and regions had to be merged to achieve a single body of rules. The Chairperson of the NCOP had played an instrumental role in solving this problem and the rules would hopefully be finalised the following week. There had also been no proper budget for the PAP as the AU had still been organising itself.

The third session of the PAP had been held at the beginning of the year. Everything seemed to fall into place during this session with the committees working together and taking a number of resolutions on a wide range of issues. Peace-keeping forces were also sent to the Sudan and Cote d’Ivoire. The Parliament had also formed a trust fund so that its funding would no longer be dependant on the AU budget.

A number of challenges still faced the PAP. It was important to note that when countries wanted to build something together such as a common market or customs union, they needed to sacrifice some of their sovereignty. This was a sensitive issue for many countries and would take time to accomplish. A further problem was that African countries had different systems of law. For example, South African law was based on Roman-Dutch law, Angola on Portuguese law and Zimbabwe and Malawi on British law. It would be problematic to streamline these various systems of law to create a unified system and it would also take time.

An extremely important document that Committee Cembers should refer to when dealing with the PAP was the report on the third ordinary session of the PAP held from 29 March to 11 April. This report made a number of important recommendations. These included the recommendation to send a peacekeeping force to the Sudan and to hold a World Summit of the Information Society. The African Land Title system was also recommended due to the negative effects of colonisation on the division of land in Africa. The creation of an African phyto-genetic resource bank was also recommended which was very important to protect Africa’s environment and livestock. Two further recommendations were the development of communication and information structures in Africa and the need for all member states to ratify the Constitutive Act of the African Union. Finally, it was recommended that African investment should also concentrate on the rural economies of African countries that in the past were often neglected.

The discussion on the PAP had to unfortunately be limited due to time constraints. However Committee Members were urged to read the report on the third session of the PAP to broaden their knowledge and understanding of this institution.

Ms Hajaig hoped to brief the Committee in the future on the AU, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and the New Partnership on Africa’s Development (NEPAD). It was important that the Committee had a clear understanding of these structures.

Discussion
The Chairperson commented that one of the biggest problems existing in Parliament was the lack of communication between the National Assembly (NA) and the NCOP. This meeting represented the beginning of a new era of communication between these two houses. It also meant that the NCOP would move away from discussing South African issues to Foreign Affairs matters. Committee Members needed to learn much more about the AU, SADC and the Pan-African Parliament and the distinction between them. This would be greatly aided by the briefings of the National Assembly on these institutions.

Mr D Mkono (ANC, Eastern Cape) had a number of questions. Firstly, he asked for the financial implications of hosting the PAP. Secondly, he was unsure whether South Africa had the second largest population in the SADC region. However, he had heard that there had been discussions on the dissolution of borders in Africa. He asked what the implications of this dissolution would be, especially its effect on South Africa’s initiatives regarding the promotion of the eleven indigenous languages. The incorporation of other countries into South Africa would have serious implications for the promotion of all eleven official languages. His third question was on the promotion of unity and harmonisation in Africa. Many Parliamentarians from the different regions were unhappy with this harmonisation, especially about receiving the same salaries and the promotion of women in the PAP as leaders. He asked how this would affect the promotion of unity and how one could overcome the feelings of discontent. Lastly, South Africa was economically very strong in the SADC region as well as in the rest of Africa. Would other countries whose natural resources had been depleted not ride on South Africa’s back and in doing so negatively affect its economic strength?

Mrs Hajaig responded that South Africa was responsible for providing the venue for the PAP as well as for providing the support staff that was needed. However, the African Union was responsible for providing the actual budget of the PAP. The AU got its budget from the levies received from African countries. These levies were calculated according to the financial circumstances of countries, in other words on a sliding scale. However, Ms Mongella, Chairperson of the PAP had started the process of setting up a trust fund so that it would no longer be reliant on the AU’s budget.

There was no intention to do away with borders in Africa and this would not be viable. The European Union had kept all of its borders and controlled movement between these borders with the Shengen visa. The resistance felt in the second session of the PAP towards the promotion of women was absent during the third session. This third session saw a number of women being sent to the PAP who had been working very hard and would pave the way for the promotion and development of women in Africa. Even those countries that had shown some resistance to the promotion of women had been sending women to the PAP sessions. The argument that African culture degraded women was also wrong. Women in Africa had always been revered and had played a strong role in African life due to them having the power to procreate and bring life into the world. In rural South Africa, the Queen and the mother of the chief had always played a strong role in village affairs. Even the old women living in the villages had played a strong role. She argued that the promotion of women in Western culture could also be questioned. She doubted for example how liberated a female typist in a typing pool actually was.

Lastly, the economic integration of the continent was extremely important. SADC was an important building block of this economic integration and development in the region as well as the rest of the continent. She argued that South Africa was not alone in its economic strength in the SADC region. Countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Namibia and Botswana were rich in minerals. These had not been depleted, as many believed, but had just not been used properly. These countries needed to create Mineral Charters, like South Africa had, that would put the control of mineral rights in the hands of the people and not large corporations. This was the aim of the African Renaissance, to rather use the knowledge of the people in the continent to help other countries in Africa use its resources effectively. Strengthening people in other African countries not just by giving them money could only have a positive effect on South Africa.

Mr J Sibiya (ANC, Limpopo Province) had four queries. Firstly, it had been envisaged that by the year 2015 a common market would have been created in the SADC region. This would lead to the free movement of goods and capital across the borders. Would this be coupled to the free movement of labour? Secondly, in the past the Rand had dominated the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). How were current transactions within SACU taking place in light of the fact that there seemed to be too many currencies trying to play more important roles? He also enquired how succession of the Chairpersonship of SADC was arranged. Lastly, he asked when it would possible for South Africa to begin training new scientists that were free of Apartheid contamination. He felt that this training should be included in the recommendations of the Pan-African Parliament.

Ms Hajaig believed that along with the common market being established in 2015, a common customs union was also targeted for 2010. This common customs union would probably not be realized. A common currency was also problematic due to the difficulty of creating a development bank. The harmonisation of banking and tariff laws in the continent was also problematic and delayed the common market process. The succession of the Chairpersonship of the SADC region was decided at the SADC summits. This allowed the entire process of appointing a new Chairperson to run smoothly as an earlier summit would decide on the Chairperson for the future summit before the current Chairperson’s term ended.

Lastly, in the past the methods used to teach maths and science in South African schools had been grossly ineffective. The effect of this could be seen in the fact that five-year old Indian children had the same mathematical abilities and understanding as that of ten-year old South African children. The Minister of Education had started new initiatives to overhaul the old education system and encourage children to take maths and science at school. It was important that parents tried to aid this initiative. It was important to note that science was an exact science. Unfortunately in the past, science had been used by people for despicable reasons but on the whole the scientific community was a fair one. One could see this in the allegiance of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Human Sciences Research Council to the government.

Mr Gamede (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) asked if KwaZulu-Natal could host the Pan-African Parliament. This would be economically viable for the province.

Ms Hajaig responded that hosting the Pan-African Parliament was not economically feasible in terms of funding. Johannesburg had the Johannesburg International Airport and to transport people landing there to a different province would not be feasible.

The Chairperson thanked Ms Hajaig for taking the time to brief the Committee on these important issues. She hoped that she could brief the Committee on a range of other issues in the future. It was important to note that this meeting would hopefully begin a future trend of greater communication between the NA and the NCOP.

The meeting was adjourned.

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