The Clerk of the Parliament of Zimbabwe, Kennedy M. Chokuda has reaffirmed that the President of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), H. E. Senator Chief Fortune Charumbira’s membership of PAP has not been interrupted.
Mr. Chokuda stated this in a letter addressed to the Clerk of the Pan-African Parliament, Ms. Lindiwe Khumalo. “I write to advice you of the continued retention and re-designation of Hon. Chief Fortune Charumbira and Hon. Pupurai Togarepi as members of the Republic of Zimbabwe’s delegation to the Pan African Parliament” he wrote.
“Having been duly re-elected as members of the Senate and the National Assembly of the Parliament of Zimbabwe in terms of section 120(1)(c) and 124(1)(a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe respectively, I hereby reaffirm their continued and uninterrupted retention as members of the delegation of the Republic of Zimbabwe to the Pan African Parliament”.
“By this correspondence, we wish to also advise you of the withdrawal of the designations of Hon. Tatenda Mavetera, Hon. Stars Mathe and Hon. Dr. Tapiwa Mashakada whose statuses are no longer compatible with membership to the Pan-African Parliament. Consequently, Hon. Elizabeth Masuku, Hon. Tafanana Zhou and Hon. Jabulani Hadebe have been designated to replace and substitute these members whose designations have been withdrawn as represented above.”
Pundits have wondered how a declaration of vacancy in the seat of the President of PAP was contemplated without the receipt of notification from the National Parliament of Zimbabwe and declaration before the plenary. According to Rule 6.5 of the Rules of Procedure of the PAP “Where the National Parliament or any other deliberative organ of a Member State notifies the Clerk that the status of the elected or designated Member has become incompatible with membership of Parliament, the Clerk shall notify the Bureau and the President shall declare before the House that the membership of the person has been terminated”.
This implies that for a valid declaration of vacancy to be made in the case of Hon. Chief Charumbira, there has to be notification from the National Parliament of Zimbabwe to the effect that his status has become incompatible with membership of PAP. It is on receipt of this notification that Clerk shall notify the Bureau and the President shall declare before the House that the membership has been terminated. But as shown in Mr. Chokuda’s letter, Hon. Charumbira’s membership of PAP has not been interrupted. Above all, there has not been a plenary session of the PAP since the May 2023 session where such declaration of vacancy could have been made. This invalidates any such declaration of vacancy.
Speaking to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, a parliamentarian from the Northern Regional Caucus bemoaned the situation where vacancies were declared by unauthorized persons without following the laid down procedure prescribed in the Rules of Procedure of PAP. “They cannot illegally declare vacancies because they want to create room so as to impose someone as acting president. They even had the temerity to declare a vacancy in the seat of the First Vice President even after the Mauritania delegation had been cleared by the Committee on Rules, Privileges, Ethics and Discipline and consequently sworn in during the last May plenary.” He particularly noted that there was applause by parliamentarians when Hon. Professor Massouda Mohamed Laghdaf was called to resume her seat. “That applause was a sort of referendum or election” he added.
“Dissolution of National Parliament is not synonymous with cessation of membership of PAP. Cessation is triggered only by notification under Rule 6.5 which by the way is the same as in the 2011 rule. The PAP Protocol did not define what “ceases to be a member” is. PAP in exercising its rights under Article 12 of the PAP Protocol provided those definitions. And those definitions did not vary the terms and principle of the Protocol but rather, gave it a consistent practical application” he said.
In a related development, our correspondent gathered that some countries have concluded plans to table the issue of the declaration of vacancy in seat of the First Vice President, Hon. Professor Massouda Mohamed Laghdaf as well as the unauthorized suspension of the Rules of Procedure of PAP at the next Assembly summit in February, an action that could portray the AUC Chairperson in bad light. The complainants want the Assembly of Heads of State and Government which is the supreme organ of the African Union, to pursuant to Article 20 of the PAP Protocol, decide by two-thirds vote whether the amended rules of procedure are incompatible with the Protocol. They contend that the issue of whether the amendments to the Rules of Procedure of PAP were incompatible with the provisions of the PAP Protocol is an issue of interpretation of the Protocol which only the Assembly can decide by two-thirds majority.
Another parliamentarian from the Central Regional Caucus who spoke to our correspondent through an interpreter, maintained that opponents of the amended rules have only gotten a temporary relief insisting that greater task lay ahead for them. “They have their work cut out for them as they need to convince two-thirds of the members of the Assembly of Heads State to agree with them which is a near impossibility. I do not see the Heads of State agreeing to interfere with our amended Rule of Procedure which is our internal working document. So, their victory is only temporary; our amended Rules will without doubt, be restored” he concluded.
Our correspondent also gathered that at least two additional countries have indicated that they would submit protest letters to the Assembly of Heads of State asking that the letter suspending the Rules of Procedure should be overturned because it was issued without authority. Some Heads of State, it was gathered, are particularly irked at the declaration of vacancy in the seat of the First Vice President, Hon. Professor Massouda after she was duly sworn in during a plenary session of PAP insisting that she cannot take the oath again.
One of the Chairpersons of the Regional Caucuses wondered how the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) arrived at their conclusion of incompatibility of the Rules with the provisions of the PAP Protocol. According to the Chairperson, “the language of the contested provisions of Articles 5 and 12 of the Protocol are exact versions of Rules 8(1)(e) and 8(8)(e) respectively. The language of the Protocol was copied verbatim into the above Rules. If they had properly examined the documents submitted by the Second Vice President and his group, they would have discovered that what was submitted was not what the plenary actually adopted. “There was no due diligence investigation by either the AUC officials or the OLC. Had that been done, they would have discovered that a “doctored” amended Rules of Procedure was passed off”.
“What is happening at PAP is very regrettable and unfortunate. There was no crisis at PAP until the AUC letter of 21 August 2023. It was that letter that triggered the crisis and the subsequent letter of 5 October 2023 confirmed their complicity in the whole saga. The same group that sent the complaint to the AUC, also responded to their complaint on behalf of the Bureau. That means that the complainants and the respondent are the same people”.
On the recent G-20 Parliamentary Forum in India, the Chairperson regretted the composition of PAP delegation to the event pointing out that the Chairpersons of the Regional Caucuses were not consulted. “What was the business of the Chairperson of CAPA in that delegation? Why was the Chairperson and members of such Committee as Cooperation, International Relations and Conflict Resolution; Committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration; and Committee on Transport, Industry, Communications, Energy and Technology not on the delegation?”
Speaking on the reactivation of the Task Force, a parliamentarian from the Eastern Regional Caucus said “I believe that employees of the AUC are not eligible to replace the PAP Bureau or represent African parliamentarians or even chair their meetings as this will be an insult to the African people whom PAP is representing, and am 100% sure that the Heads of State and the Executive Council won’t allow this”.
He stated that even in some national parliaments like Japan, Turkey, Taiwan and even the EU where there have been instances of brawls in chambers though in varying degrees, they have always been resolved through parliament’s institutional mechanisms. It has never served as an excuse to confiscate the legislative powers and interfere with independence of the parliament. “I condemn the confiscation of power of the legislative organ by the AUC Chairperson and his staff. What the AUC should have done is to assist PAP to organize a plenary session so as to internally address the issues but definitely not to play a big brother role. PAP is made up of experienced elected parliamentarians. He seemed not to have realized that some of our members are principal officers of their respective national parliaments. The AU having been admitted into the G-20, should be careful in handling these issues if they care about the image of our continent and the message they want to convey to the world” he concluded.