The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H. E. Moussa Faki Mahamat has invalidated all the decisions purportedly taken on behalf of the Bureau by the Second Vice President of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), Hon. Ashebir Gayo. The decision was taken to safeguard the African Union (AU) from potential legal liability.

This was contained in a memo dated 18 October 2023 with reference CCP/O/706/10.23 and addressed to the Clerk of the Pan-African Parliament, Ms. Lindiwe Khumalo.

The memo from the AU was based on a legal opinion by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) which advised that the Bureau of the Pan-African Parliament which is supposed to consist of five (5) members has been reduced to two (2) members, namely the Second and Third Vice Presidents.

Accordingly, the Bureau does not have a quorum in its current composition to make administrative, financial and management decisions on the affairs and facilities of PAP and its Organs until the Bureau has the appropriate quorum.

“As such, the decision of the Chairperson of the Commission as capitulated in the memoranda of 05 October 2023 should be understood that pending the finalization of the mission of the Task Force and the resulting transitional measures to be proposed, the Bureau shall not take any administrative, financial and management decisions”.

“Any such decisions taken by the Bureau should be considered invalid and cannot be implemented to safeguard the Union from potential legal liability” concluded the OLC memo.

By the development, the Clerk of the Parliament, Ms. Lindiwe Khumalo has now been put in charge of the administrative, financial and management decisions on the affairs and facilities of PAP.

The implication is that the AUC Chairperson has effectively poured cold water on all the unilateral decisions taken by Hon. Dr. Gayo since 23 August 2023. These include:

             i.        The dismissal of the Bureau staff and appointing a new Director of the Bureau, Policy Officer and Secretary, even when an Acting President is not entitled to such support staff. The practice and precedence at PAP is that the Bureau staff retain their posts until a new President is elected. This serves to reduce the costs on the Union in the event that the incumbent retains his seat. The OLC has thus directed the Clerk to safeguard the Union from such potential legal liability.

            ii.        Attempted to suspend the Clerk, Ms. Lindiwe Khumalo, and initiating an “investigation” into how she was recruited as part of persecuting her for refusing to implement unlawful instructions. Unfortunately for Hon. Dr. Gayo, the AU has now put the Clerk in charge of the administration of PAP pending proper constitution of the Bureau.

iii.            Unilaterally convening Committee Sittings slated from 20 to 24 November in the absence of a properly constituted Bureau.

Pundits have observed that for Hon. Dr. Gayo and his group, this serves as poetic justice having worked so hard to instigate the current crisis at PAP. His unilateral declaration of vacancy in the offices of the President and First Vice President in clear violation of the provisions of Rule 6.5 of the Rules of Procedure of PAP and which resulted in the inability of the Bureau to form a quorum, has also put a stop to his ambition to continue to function as Acting President.

Hon. Dr. Gayo and Hon. Miles Sampa and the other members of their group can now return to their respective national parliaments having accomplished their mission. For example, they were the ones who invited AUC Chairperson into what is otherwise, an internal affair of PAP which is the third highest organ of the AU. But they allowed their ambition to give the AUC Chairperson, the opportunity belittle this all important organ of the Union. It is hoped that they are now congratulating themselves for a job well done.

A Task Force, made up of members of staff of the Commission, who are not parliamentarians in clear violation of the PAP Protocol, will now recommend the transitional arrangement that will be put in place while African Parliamentarians watch from the sideline.

Our correspondent notes that the lack of quorum as acknowledged in the OLC opinion is driven not by operation of law but by operation of fact where legitimately elected Bureau members are forcefully excluded from the precincts of PAP by Hon. Dr. Gayo.

“That’s completely antithetical to AU guiding principles. The factual underpinnings that necessitated the absence of quorum as recognized by OLC are a product of undemocratic circumstance. By operation of law, there’s quorum even under the 2011 Rules that recognized the continued competency of H. E Senator Chief Fortune Charumbira as President and respect for existing plenary affirmation of Hon Prof. Massouda as First VP. Chief Charumbira’s competency as PAP President and Bureau member remains uninterrupted as provided for in Rule 6.5 (2011 amendment)” wrote a legal observer.