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PAP’s 5th President Hon Charumbira sets tone for addressing Africa’s challenges

Chief Fortune Charumbira

Honourable Chief Fortune Charumbira was yesterday elected as the 5th President of the Pan African Parliament upon which he called for collective interventions and a united front to address the myriads of challenges confronting the continent.

In his acceptance speech on the occasion of his election, Hon. Charumbira urged parliamentarians  to speak with one voice and work collaboratively to bring back the Pan African Parliament to its proper position as a continental legislative body.

He thanked his country Zimbabwe, and the fellow country delegation to the Pan African Parliament, and in a very special way, President Emmerson Mnangagwa for the unprecedented and foundational support to his candidacy without which he wouldn’t have succeeded. He also paid tribute to the support from the PAP Southern and Northern Region Caucus.

“To my brothers and sisters in the Southern Regional Caucus, this victory is for you. For several years, you stood by me and consistently affirmed my nomination as your candidate. You withstood several attacks, and sacrificed so much in terms of time, talent and resources to see that equity and fairness are restored at the Pan African Parliament. I won’t harbour any mistaken illusion that the struggle that preceded my election as President was about me. However, I cannot lose sight of your decision to entrust me and present me as the anchor of those values, principles, and convictions that were manifested in the struggle that preceded my election today. I’m honored that you chose me and I am more inspired by your support, consistent tenacity for equity, and fervent determination to speak with one voice. Thank you! Thank you!! Thank you!!!

“To my brothers and sisters at the Northern Regional Caucus, I am deeply indebted to you for yielding your ambition to my candidacy and allowing me to emerge as President. By this singular act, you have demonstrated that no individual ambition should ever be placed above the stability of our dear parliament. I thank you for standing with all of us as we fought to ensure that the African Union principle on geographical rotation is implemented,” Hon Charumbira said.

He said equally important was the support of the Western, Eastern, and Central Caucus for their determination to elevate PAP beyond the colonial divisions of language and religion.

“Your vote today has demonstrated that no amount of superficial divisions of language and religion can ever overshadow our collective aspirations for a united parliament. I pledge to work with everyone and together we will achieve Africa that we all desire.

“This historic moment in our Parliament would not have been possible if not for the steadfast commitment and leadership provided by the African Union Commission led by His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat Chairperson of the Commission and the impeccable, indefatigable, and extremely brilliant team from the Office of the Legal Counsel. The consistency and tenacity of purpose which you exhibited in the conduct of this election and the periods before it has proven and reaffirmed the African Union as a beacon of hope and vanguard of Africa’s democratic tenets, rule of law, and the pursuit of equity and justice. I thank you!” the PAP President said.

The election came at a pivotal time on the continent that is faced with a myriad of systemic challenges that continue to undermine its human and economic development. These include political instability in some countries which is adversely affecting regional cohesion, international peace and security as well as infrastructural development, hence the thrust to Silence the Guns in Africa.

Others challenges are the negative effects of climate change which has resulted in droughts, floods, and other extreme weather conditions; and the ravaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic which has disrupted health systems. Their increased freqiuency and intensity over the years have adversely affected the prospects for sustained economic growth in the continent.

“Furthermore, unfriendly visa regimes affect inter-country, intra-regional, and inter-regional trade, integration, and cooperation. They not only inhibit the free movement of people and goods but also retard economic growth contrary to the set objectives of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). As if those were not enough, Africa is also faced with the emerging threats posed by corruption and illicit financial flows as well as the transboundary effects of these vices which increase the cost of doing business in the continent. Poverty, internal displacement, resource conflicts, gender inequalities, unemployment and hunger also continue to stalk the continent, thereby increasing vulnerability.

“Honourable Colleagues, it is undeniable that Africa is yearning for soultions that will break the yoke of human-induced missteps that have been retarding her development trajectory. As an organ of the African Union, the Pan-African Parliament is a critical cog in addressing some of the challenges facing the continent. This was why I predicated my candidacy to the Office of President of the Pan-African Parliament on a desire for purposeful and people-centric leadership and that is what I intend to deliver,” Chief Charumbira said..

It is widely recognized that the Pan African Parliament is at crossroads due to such constraints as institutionalcapcity  and the needed resources to contribute meaningfully to the human and socio-economic development of the continent. The Parliament has inherent framework challenges which require resolute, astute and transformational leadership that is committed to serving the people of Africa. It requires unified parliamentarians to help it emerge from the quagmire it currently finds itself entangled in. It also requires the collective collaboration of the experience and capacity embodied in this chamber that is inspired by the need to deploy the Pan-African Parliament as an instrument to address, in a holistic and sustained manner, the challenges facing the continent.

“I pledge that my administration will be aided by the experienced members of the bureau and will create a conducive and enabling environment that will enable this institution to execute its mandate. I am therefore glad that through consultations, we have been able to formulate during my campaign preceding this election a “10-Point Implementation Planthat will help to actualize our vision of an effective organization, ready to confront the challenges facing the continent as well as Africa’s development discourse.”

PAP, under Honuourable Chief Charumbira, will give priority to issues that have been undermining the integrity of the Pan-African Parliament such as organizational structure, budget, human Capital, and status of Honourable Members of Parliament in relation to compensation, benefits, and entitlement within the African Union System.

He said for too long, issues underlying the sustainability of PAP Members of Parliament have not been adequately addressed. It is on this recognition that Chief Charumbira pledged to make the welfare of the Members of Parliament, a central focus of his administration by collectively implementing with the Bureau, the following “10-Point Implementation Plan”.

These include:

  1. Pursue a complete harmonization of the MP’s Benefits, Privileges, and Status with the AU.
  2. Enhancement of sitting allowances for MP’s, welfare, and per diem remunerations during missions.  Working with the Bureau and the Secretariat, I will use my incomparable experience with AU systems to lobby for enhanced funding architecture for these issues.
  3. Ensure the allocation of adequate financial resources for our Committee activities with an enhanced welfare package for optimal performance. Committees are the engines of the work of Parliament.
  4. Lobby for enhanced incorporation and engagement of PAP MPs in Election Observer Missions (EOM’s) and ensure that PAP MP’s, who are the pillars of Africa’s democracy, constitute up to 50% of the AU EOM delegation.
  5. Institutionalize a staff review process that complements skills and expertise while ensuring job security, fairness and balance in Staff Regional Distribution and Functions.
  6. Restore prudent management of resources at PAP and value for money by ensuring a harmonious working relationship with donor partners through robust implementation of remediation recommendations in audit reports.
  7. Mainstream gender issues and ensure that affirmative guidelines on gender equity and inclusiveness are prioritized in the Structures of the PAP.
  8. Initiate a robust parliamentary programme on youth empowerment and institute policies that will harness the vast growing youth population in the continent.
  9. Introduce an advocacy initiative meant to enhance the poverty eradication programme in line with AU Agenda 2063 and SDG priorities that seek to promote value addition and Agricultural modernization across the continent, and lastly,
  10. Pursue expeditious ratification of the Malabo Protocol and work to ensure that PAP’s legislative mandate to create model law for the region is institutionalized.

He bemoaned that, for too long in history, PAP has been divided across religious and linguistic lines.

“The PAP has long embarked on peace missions across the continent. As an institution that has championed peace across the continent, we should embrace the best examples of what we preach.  It’s time we come together and rebuild our institution to its enviable position as the pillar of Africa’s democracy.”

To that end, the Pan-African Parliament requires an enhanced institutional architecture for it to be effective in responding to the contemporary challenges and imperatives confronting Africa. For two years and partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bureau, Permanent Committees, and the Plenary Assembly have not been functionally responsive to the contemporary challenges facing the continent.

There is thus a need to realign the priorities of the Bureau as the organ responsible for the administration and management of the affairs of the parliament as to create a conducive environment for addressing issues affecting the Parliament, MPs, Staff of parliament, organization, finances, and relations with external stakeholders.

“I commit to working with the Bureau, Members of Parliament, and the Secretariat to address the challenges confronting both the continent and the Parliament. The key will be teamwork as it is only through unity of purpose, oneness, and mutually symbiotic relationships with the other organs and institutions of the African Union that we can achieve more as a continental legislative body. Thank you and together we can achieve the Africa we want.”

 

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende