Dr. Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa (DIRCO) and Guest of Honour at the Joint Retreat between the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) and the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) of the African Union (AU), led tributes to the Bureau of the PAP for the significant work it has done since the June 2022 elective session.
Minister Pandor delivered a keynote address on the opening day of the Joint PAP-PRC in Johannesburg, South Africa Monday on “The Role of the Pan-African Parliament in the Integration and Economic Development of Africa: Giving Full Effect to the Dream of the African Union Founding Fathers.”
The Retreat, three years in the making, is organised to reflect on the challenges affecting the effective exercise by the PAP of its mandate within the AU institutional architecture.
Dr. Pandor recognised that under the leadership of Hon. Chief Fortune Z. Charumbira, the Legislative arm of the AU’s drive to reinvigorate and re-energise itself has yielded palpable results.
The Minister further recalled that the launch of the AU in 2002 was underpinned by the continental body’s resolve to become a people-centred organisation. She was adamant that the PAP has a critical role to play in realising this ideal given its unique capacity to connect with constituencies and African citizens across the continent and beyond.
She also noted that the Union was not established to be a Bureaucracy, but rather an engine to advance the continent’s developmental goals. This is precisely why the PAP is called upon to monitor the achievement of these goals, especially as the AU embarks on a review of the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan (FTYIP) of Agenda 2063 (2013 – 2023).
“We are encouraged by what the Parliament has achieved so far under the new leadership. The PAP must now effectively play its role as the Continental Parliament to ensure that AU programmes are implemented in line with the aspirations of the African citizenry. For instance, we must ask how the AU’s budget of USD 650 million benefits the people of Africa. “What has this money bought us?” she asked. “Has it helped develop Africa? Has it built schools and solved the food crisis? Are these funds directed at development?” Minister Pandor inquired.
She added: “The PAP is also expected to play an active role in strengthening democracy, upholding human rights and respecting the rule of law. The PAP’s voice should also be heard even on unpopular issues such as unconstitutional changes of government and corruption.”
Ambassador Lamine Thiaw, Chairperson of the Permanent Representatives’ Committee (PRC) has congratulated the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) for returning to full functionality, following the disruptions in 2021. He commended H.E Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal and Chairperson of the African Union; H. E Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa; and H.E Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission for their personal intervention in ensuring that calm is restored.
“We look forward to working closely with the Bureau to ensure that the Parliament delivers on its mandate to provide a platform for African citizens to be involved in the affairs of the Union. The PAP is one of the most critical organs within the African Union architecture and the Africa we want cannot be achieved without it.“
H.E Hon. Chief Charumbira, President of the PAP thanked the Guest of Honour for taking time from what is a very hectic schedule to officially open the Joint Retreat.
The President also commended the Chairperson of the PRC for agreeing to convene the PAP-PRC Joint Retreat at this opportune time. The President applauded the entire membership of the PRC for such an impressive turnout for the Retreat. This is an indication that the PRC is taking the work of the PAP and its relationship with the Parliament seriously.
“We need to change the image of the PAP which has taken a battering over the last few years. We are committed to changing this. This has been our focus since June 2022 and our resolve is starting to bear fruit. The PAP-PRC Retreat provides a platform for earnest reflection on the role of the Pan-African Parliament in the continental governance matrix and the PRC’s expectations with respect to what the Pan-African Parliament can and should deliver within this mandate. At the end of it all, the Retreat must culminate in a convergence of minds in recognition of the fact that both institutions have important complementary roles to play in the African Union governance architecture and in the achievement of the objectives of the AU, including Agenda 2063.”
The first day of the Retreat focused on the understanding of the PAP Core Business and institutional legal framework, PAP’s deliverables, institutional arrangements, PAP Secretariat and Staffing, legal status and condition of service of Parliamentarians, and the PAP budget: Financial and Resource Support. Members of the PRC who took the floor during the plenary discussions praised the Bureau for the work done in a short period of time as engagements on the future of the Parliament kicked off in Johannesburg.
The two-day programme is a blend of presentations and plenary debates. The PAP Bureau and the PRC Bureau are also expected to deliberate and agree on the strategic imperatives that will catalyse the performance of the PAP in the short, medium and long term.
Meanwhile, the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) has appealed to the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) of the African Union (AU) to consider its current budgetary challenges. The PAP and the PRC are holding a Joint Retreat in Johannesburg, South Africa to reflect on the challenges affecting the effective exercise by the PAP of its mandate within the AU institutional architecture.
H.E Hon. Chief Fortune Z. Charumbira, President of the PAP, made a passionate plea to the members of the PRC to increase the allocated funds and allow PAP to carry out its mandate. “In 2016 the PAP received 12% of the African Union’s (AU) budget. In 2023 we will only be allocated 1.7% of the AU’s annual budget,” H.E Hon. Charumbira said.
In a presentation to African Ambassadors accredited to the AU, Hon. Mohammed Mubaraka Muntaka, Chairperson of the PAP Committee on Monetary and Financial Affairs said the PAP budget has diminished continuously since 2016. “In 2016 the total PAP budget was about USD36 million. That budget has been reduced to less than USD11 million for 2023,” said Hon. Muntaka.
According to Hon. Muntaka, the AU’s budget has grown substantially over the last seven or eight years, while that of the PAP has shrunk, making it extremely difficult to hold parliamentary sessions, partake in missions, and fund committee activities.
“In 2023 our committees will only have a total annual budget of USD45,000, which makes it impossible to travel to countries on fact-finding missions or even to travel in-country. In 2023 there is no budget for missions at all. In addition, the PAP has not had a capital budget since 2021,” said Hon. Muntaka.
The budgetary constraints have placed pressure on the PAP which needs to recruit several new staff members in the next year. In the 2023 budget allocation staff costs have been reduced significantly to just over USD7 million.
“Furthermore, the current budget provides no room for participating in AU activities, which is part of the PAP mandate,” said Hon. Muntaka. There is no way we can carry out our normal activities with the current budget,” he said. Hon. Muntaka added that a budget similar to the one the PAP was allocated before Covid-19 will go a long way in empowering the PAP to fund its necessary functions.
In her response to the presentation given by Hon. Muntaka, Ambassador Ammah A. Twum Amoah, Chairperson of the PRC Sub-Committee on General Supervision and Coordination on Budgetary, Financial and said that she had sympathy for the PAP and understood their position. “We will need to engage all stakeholders, especially the AU’s Secretariat since the budget process is not initiated at the PRC level.”
The ongoing Retreat is expected to produce recommendations on the strategic imperatives that will catalyse the performance of the PAP in the short, medium and long term.