Zimbabwe’s Charumbira Back in Pan-African Parliament: What Lies Ahead?


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

On October 17th, the Clerk of the Parliament of Zimbabwe, Kennedy M. Chokuda, wrote to the Pan-African Parliament Clerk, Lindiwe Khumalo, affirming H.E. Senator Chief Fortune Charumbira’s continued membership in the PAP as one of five Zimbabwean Parliamentarians representing the member state in the continental parliament.

Mr. Chokuda’s letter underlined that Charumbira’s membership remains intact due to his re-election as a member of the Senate and the National Assembly of the Parliament of Zimbabwe. According to the PAP’s Rules of Procedure, membership can only be terminated if a notification from the National Parliament is received, initiating the declaration of a vacancy.

Letter announcing Zimbabwe’s delegation to the Pan-African Parliament after the country’s General Elections in August 2023, and swearing in of MPs in September.

Recent developments in the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) have given rise to a maelstrom of political and procedural quandaries, causing consternation among parliamentarians, citizens of the African Union alike.  Central to this tumult is the contentious declaration of the seat of the President vacant during Charumbira’s leave for Zimbabwe’s General Election in August.

The controversial actions were set in motion by the self-declaration of Ashebir Woldegiorgis Gayo, the 2nd Vice President from Ethiopia, who proclaimed himself Acting President and sidelined other Bureau members. This move was purportedly supported by Bridgette Motsepe, the South African AU Goodwill Ambassador to the Pan-African Parliament, and former PAP President Roger Nkodo of Cameroon.

The controversy further extends to the suspension of the Amended Rules of Procedure of PAP and the declaration of a vacancy in the seat of the First Vice President, Hon. Professor Massouda Mohamed Laghdaf of Mauritania, despite her swearing-in during the last plenary session. Some member countries are now planning to bring these issues to the next Assembly summit, aiming to secure a two-thirds vote by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government to determine whether the amended rules of procedure are incompatible with the PAP Protocol.

PAP Parliamentarians, particularly from the Northern Regional Caucus, are reportedly arguing that declaring vacancies without following the established procedure is illegitimate and raises concerns about the proper adherence to rules and procedures governing the continental legislative body. They perceive this move as an attempt to create opportunities to impose an acting president.

It is reported that some parliamentarians from the Central Regional Caucus argue that the opponents of the amended rules may face an uphill battle in convincing two-thirds of the heads of state to agree with them. They assert that the amended rules constitute the internal working document of the PAP and are unlikely to be interfered with.

The situation also spotlights the role of the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in these developments. Some parliamentarians criticize the AUC for triggering the crisis with their letters and for not conducting due diligence in examining the documents submitted in the past year regarding the Amended Rules of Procedure. It is alleged that the said opponents of the Amended Rules presented a “doctored” version of the document to the AUC.

The situation in the PAP is marked by a complex and contentious scenario featuring procedural disputes, concerns about rule adherence, and a looming showdown at the next Assembly summit. It can only be hoped that the outcomes of these developments will bring much needed attention to various challenges facing the institution as well as improve its functioning and credibility.


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