Clerk of the Pan-African Parliament Mrs. Lindiwe Khumalo and President of the Pan-African Parliament, Hon. Chief Fortune Charumbira in August 2023. Image courtesy of PAP Media

Hon. Ashebir Woldegiorgis Gayo of Ethiopia, the self-appointed Acting President of the Pan-African Parliament,  once more sent shockwaves across the continent. This time, the dramatic suspension of Ms. Lindiwe Khumalo of South Africa from her position as the Clerk of the Parliament, a mere six months after her appointment.

Ms. Lindiwe Khumalo, first female Clerk of the Pan-African Parliament and Technical Head of the African Governance Architecture Bureau as of June 2023

In a letter dated October 24, 2023, Gayo purportedly rationalized the suspension by asserting the necessity for an “free and objective review of the recruitment process” that resulted in Khumalo’s appointment. Nevertheless, critics have highlighted Gayo’s past inclination to oust officials not aligned with his ambitions. In this instance, the move is perceived as an effort to obstruct the return of the re-elected Hon. Senator Fortune Charumbira of Zimbabwe to his duties and serve a full term as the elected President and Speaker of the African Union’s legislative organ.

However, a memorandum from the AUC dated October 18, predating Gayo’s suspension of Mrs. Khumalo, reportedly nullified decisions taken by the Bureau of the PAP, overseen by Gayo. The AUC contended that the Bureau lacked the essential quorum for making pivotal decisions. Curiously, it appears that the AUC’s memo was disregarded.

It is said that critics are arguing that Gayo’s suspension of Khumalo is not only in direct defiance of the AUC directive but also in violation of the PAP Protocol, which outlines the process for appointing and relieving the Clerk. According to Article 12.6 of the PAP Protocol and Rule 20(3) of the Rules of Procedure, the Clerk is appointed by the Parliament on the recommendation of the Bureau. However, the Bureau, lacking the required quorum, cannot legally make such decisions.

The current situation raises questions about the role of the Deputy Clerk Mr. Harou, a civil servant, in aiding and abetting the disobedience of AUC directives. Pundits are left wondering about the implications of such actions on the integrity of the PAP and its ability to function effectively.

Mr. Gali M. Harou (Chad) replaces Lindiwe Khumalo (South Africa) as Acting Clerk of the PAP. Image from PAP Media

Urging a democratic resolution, observers are calling on the AUC Chairperson to facilitate the funding for a plenary session, allowing parliamentarians to address the crisis and make decisions consistent with the principles of the PAP Protocol. The unilateral decisions taken by individuals, setting aside the decisions of the plenary, are seen as inconsistent with the vision of the founders of the African Union in establishing the Pan-African Parliament.

 

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