Contentious Leadership Rocks African Parliament as Zimbabwe Approaches Harmonised Elections

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JOSEPH KALIMBWE’S MISGUIDED ATTACK AND ERRONEOUS SUBMISSION ON THE NEWS OF CHIEF CHARUMBIRA’S RE-ELECTION TO THE ZIMBABWE SENATE AND BY EXTENSION AS PRESIDENT OF THE PAN AFRICAN PARLIAMENT (PAP)

PAP News Report: “PAP President Charumbira re-elected into the Zimbabwe Senate. The implication of this development is that Chief Charumbira retains his seat in Parliament, and continues as a “returning Member” of African Parliament”.

Joseph Kalimbwe’s reaction: “Charumbira used the same tactic of a nation going to the polls to fight his opponents from Mauritania and Cameroon at PAP. His nation’s parliament dissolves on 22nd August, its on those grounds that he will cease to be PAP President. On that basis, we will keep fighting him”.

The tweet by Joseph Kalimbwe, as has become the norm rather than the exception, contains deliberate factual inaccuracies which are well within the grand scheme of discrediting the President of the Pan African Parliament, Chief Fortune Zephania Charumbira. Notwithstanding the fact that the PAP President, or any President for that matter, can never be unseated on social media despite sordid declarations by the misguided Kalimbwe to that effect, the continuous onslaught on Chief Charumbira’s person and reputation by Joseph Kalimbwe and his handlers, whom we are aware of, seeks to propagate an agenda-setting narrative which cannot be left unchallenged. We are aware that Kalimbwe is singing for his supper as it were, having been sponsored by the same handlers to travel to Addis Ababa and Nairobi within the wider scheme of “fighting” Chief Charumbira as he has admitted in his tweet. Anyway, to address the deliberately deceptive tweet, we will correct some factual distortions and insist, as well have always done, that the Pan African Parliament will always be guided by the rule of law as embodied in the PAP Protocol and the Rules of Procedure and not social media pipedreams.

Firstly, the so-called opponent from Cameroon, allegedly the former President of PAP, Hon. Roger Nkodo Dang, was never deposed because of elections in his home country as Kalimbwe falsely implies. Those who have been following the goings-on at PAP will recall that Hon. Roger Nkodo Dang, who was vying for an unprecedented third term as PAP President, lost the battle against the principle of rotational leadership and, with it, his seat as President. The principle of rotational leadership is an established practice within the African Union and is the bedrock of unity, peace, justice and equity, within the African Union and its Organs. The Southern Region Caucus led by Chief Charumbira, fought for the observance of the principle of rotational leadership within the Pan African Parliament and duly won. With rotation firmly established in the PAP, Hon. Nkodo lost his seat, which he had retained on two occasions using the tyranny of numbers. His loss had nothing to do with elections in his home country.  

Secondly, it is instructive to note that, since the adoption of the PAP Amended Rules of Procedure on 4th November, 2022, the records will confirm H.E Chief Charumbira’s stoic and unwavering defense of the seat of the 1st Vice President, Hon. Prof. Massouda Mohamed Laghdaf, from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Hon. Laghdaf went for elections following the dissolution of the Parliament on 15th March 2023, was re-elected and re-designated to the Pan African Parliament by her Parliament and returned to take up her position as Vice President. This event illuminated the application of the principles enunciated in the amended Rules of Procedure and the PAP President’s insistence on the rule of law. In fact, it is Kalimbwe’s handlers who tried to undermine the Rules by fighting against the 1st Vice President’s return, including brazen attempts to stop the Mauritanian Parliamentarians from being sworn-in in the chamber. Fortunately, we have everything on record.

To zero in on H.E. Chief Charumbira’s commitment to the rule of law and the application of the Rules of Procedure, it is instructive to note that, before the Rules were amended, there were different constitutional parliamentary practices and arrangements in Member States in relation to dissolution arising out of electoral processes. Parliaments dissolve at different time intervals while some do not dissolve at all until new Members are sworn-in. These differences created conflicting circumstances with potential conflicting interpretation as to when a Parliamentarian ‘ceases’ to be a Member of Parliament. This conflicting interpretation became more profound when it was noted that neither the protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Relating to the Pan-African Parliament (PAP Protocol), nor the then existing Rules of Procedure provided a definition of when a Parliamentarian ‘ceases’ to be a Member of Parliament. It, therefore, became imperative for institutional stability and continuity for PAP to define certain concepts that underlie status, tenure and mandate of Members which were then missing in the PAP Rules of Procedure and the Protocol

Consequently, key definitions such as, “ceases to be a member” as provided in Rule 8 (1) (e) of the Rules of Procedure and Article 12 (8) (e) of the Protocol were provided. Rule 8(1)(e) states that a member “ceases to be a member” when notification is received from the National Parliament or other deliberative organ that a member has not been re-elected or re-designated to the Parliament following elections in a member state as prescribed by Rule 8(1)

PAP further provided definition of the term Vacancy as represented in the provisions of Rule 8 (5) to consist of the circumstance when a member has not been re-elected or re-designated by the National Parliament or other deliberative organ of a member state to the Parliament or as prescribed by Rule 8(1). Also a definition for a Returning Member was provided as a Member who has been re-elected or re-designated by a National Parliament or other deliberative organ of the Member State.

It should be noted that the retention of the seat of the 1st Vice President from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania was the first opportunity to implement the relevant provisions of Rule 15 (8) where a member who went for elections following the dissolution of their Parliament retains competency and assumes his/her original role if re-elected, for the remainder of their term in office. 

Consistent with this legal principle as clearly encapsulated in the PAP Rules of Procedure, the 1st Vice President from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania in May 2023, during the Second Ordinary Session of the Sixth Parliament of the Pan-African Parliament, returned to take her seat as member of the Bureau under the leadership of H.E Chief Charumbira as the presiding officer.

This is consequentially analogous to Chief Charumbira who has been re-elected and re-designated to PAP as part of the Zimbabwe delegation. This is consistent with the provisions of Rule 16 (15) which states that, “a member of the Bureau shall remain competent to perform his or her functions if he or she is re-elected or re-designated by his or her National Parliament or other deliberative organ”.

The authority of PAP to amend its internal Rules of Procedure is incontrovertible and is specifically enshrined in its PAP Protocol. See Article 11(8) of the Protocol, which empowers the Parliament to develop and adopt its own Rules of Procedure. This authority as enunciated in the Protocol is further encapsulated in Rule (4) (1) (f) of the Rules of Procedure which empowers Parliament to adopt its Rules of Procedure in conformity with Article 11(2) and (8) of the Protocol.

It is important to highlight the fact that this amendment by PAP, as adopted by a unanimous vote on 4th November 2022, was a unique and strategic demonstration of PAP Parliamentarians’ quest to reposition PAP for effective delivery on its mandate. Undeniably, the PAP Parliamentarians were determined to actualize an effective and practical implementation of the mandate of PAP, ensure complementarity with the PAP Protocol and conform its practices to Executive Council and Assembly decisions while retaining sustainable flexibility to adjust to global exigencies, volatilities and prevailing political realities in the continent, such as the provisions for virtual meetings.

Those still opposed to this robust comprehensive amendment, obviously do not recognize the imperative need for an institutional readjustment of PAP’s internal structures, practices and ideologies or, in this case, are merely driven by unbridled ambition and self-interest. This readjustment sought not only to identify gaps and weaknesses for institutional and structural reform, particularly as it relates to tenure and mandate of Members, but also to implement and transform existing legal frameworks, in order to ensure that they are responsive, and representative of the foundational visions and aspirations of PAP and ensure stability and continuity in the institution which are critical to effective delivery on the African citizens’ aspirations.

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