Joseph Kalimbwe’s Wild Accusations Fall Flat in the Face of Facts About Pan-African Parliament’s Rules and Zimbabwe’s Elections!

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In recent times, social media has become a powerful tool for spreading political information and shaping public opinion in Africa. However, amidst the vast sea of voices, there are instances where misinformation and manipulation seek to distort the truth ahead of national elections. Such is the case with a June 25 Twitter post made by a political rookie Joseph Kalimbwe whose criticisms completely misfired due to misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Pan-African Parliament‘s Rules of Procedure.

The novice Zambian politician lately hellbent on discrediting the Zimbabwean Senator, Hon. Chief Fortune Charumbira, made a wild claim that the traditional leader had refused to step aside from the Presidency of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) ahead of the country’s elections. According to Kalimbwe, Chief Charumbira is clinging on the top seat in order to legitimize what he has already premeditated as a “rigged” vote by the incumbent party ZANU-PF. However, it is crucial to critically examine these unfounded attacks based on the information derived from the Parliament of Zimbabwe, Protocol to the Constitutive Act of the AU [PDF] and Rules of Procedure [PDF] currently governing the Union’s legislative organ.

It is important to note that Chief Charumbira is not a contending member of parliament but sits in the senate by virtue of his position in the Chief’s Council, where he is the council’s President. Zimbabwe has a bicameral Parliament consisting of the Senate with 80 seats, wherein 16 Senators are Chiefs elected by 8 non-metropolitan provincial assemblies and 2 Senate seats are designated for the President and Deputy President of the National Council of Chiefs.

However, in the interest of addressing why the Pan-African Parliament does not require Hon. Chief Charumbira to step down ahead of national elections, let’s examine the relevant provisions of the protocol and rules on office bearers of the Pan-African Parliament.

To ensure institutional stability and continuity, the Pan-African Parliament has defined certain concepts that underlie the status, tenure, and mandate of its members [VIDEO] . Definitions have been provided to avoid disruptions in the status of members and to give practical application to the provisions in the Protocol and the Rules of Procedure related to the status of members. As of November 2022, Rule 8(8) of the Pan-African Parliament’s Rules of Procedure and Article 12(8)(e) of the PAP Protocol state that the office of the President or Vice President shall become vacant if he or she ceases to be a Member of the National Parliament or other deliberative organ.

Key terms such as “ceases to be a member” and “vacancy” are defined as follows: “Ceases to be a member” is defined as an official notification from the National Parliament or other deliberative organ received by the Clerk of PAP, noting that a member has not been re-elected or re-designated to the Parliament following elections. A “vacancy” occurs when a member has not been re-elected or re-designated by the National Parliament or other deliberative organ.

The rules, according to these definitions, have already been applied in practice in the PAP, as in the case of Mauritania’s Hon. Professor Massouda Mohamed Laghdaf, the First Vice President of the PAP, who retained her seat at the PAP during Mauritania’s national elections. In May, Mauritania officially communicated through the Clerk of PAP Parliament that Hon. Professor Laghdaf had been re-elected and remained a representative of the Mauritian Parliament at the PAP. The Vice President renewed her oath and took her seat. This is a clear demonstration that the dissolution of a parliament is not synonymous with the cessation of membership and vacancy of seat.

In addition, Article 4.4 of the Protocol states that each member state shall be represented by five members unless under AU sanctions. The event of  vacancy of the Office of the President or Vice-President in the Pan-African Parliament can only occur due to specific circumstances, such as death, resignation, incapacity, misconduct, or ceasing to be a Parliamentarian. The process for removal based on physical or mental incapacity or misconduct necessitates a motion supported by a two-thirds majority of PAP MPs and the submission of a medical report in the case of incapacity. 

As for the allegation of seeking to legitimize a rigged vote, it is crucial to distinguish the Pan-African Parliament’s role from the electoral processes of Member States. The Parliament’s primary focus lies in fostering unity, democracy, and good governance throughout Africa, while allegations of electoral irregularities should be appropriately addressed through legal and electoral channels within Zimbabwe.

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