COVID-19 to dominate SADC PF Plenary

Moses Magadza

WINDHOEK-NAMIBIA – The SADC Parliamentary Forum will hold its 47th Plenary Assembly Session virtually from the 9th to the 11th of October 2020 under the theme: “The Role of Parliaments in Strengthening Accountability during a pandemic: The Case of COVID-19.”

This would be the first time that a SADC PF Plenary takes place virtually. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has now claimed the lives of more than one million people all over the world, has prompted many organisations to suspend face-to-face meetings as they strive to continue working under safe conditions.

SADC PF Secretary General Ms. Boemo Sekgoma this week said the theme of the Plenary is based on the role of parliaments and accountability during pandemics such as COVID-19.

“The theme recognises that there has been a change in the global, regional and national situations and there are new challenges. Therefore, national parliaments are on uncharted waters. This Plenary will enable sharing of new experiences within the region based on inter-parliamentary cooperation as we move to strengthen parliamentary democracy in the SADC Region,” Sekgoma said.

Honorable Dr Nangolo Mbumba, the Vice President of the Republic of Namibia will officially open the Plenary.

Among the highlights will be a statement by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the first African to be appointed Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Sekgoma said parliaments are critical in providing political leadership and commitment towards a coordinated response to COVID-19 pandemic and other health priorities and as such the address by the WHO boss would ensure that the region’s lawmakers are briefed and updated on the state of affairs regarding global efforts in responding to the pandemic.

“Delegates will thus get to appreciate how other countries are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and, more importantly, what progress is being made around the search for a vaccine.”

This will be the first time that a WHO Secretary General addresses the Plenary Assembly Session of SADC PF.

Also during the Plenary, SADC PF will incorporate special rules for operating under extraordinary circumstances.

“This is an opportunity for parliaments to share experiences at regional level on how they should respond to COVID-19 and ensure accountability by the executive in line with their mandate,” the SG said.

Expectations are that the Plenary will also be updated on the progress made towards transforming the SADC PF into a SADC Regional Parliament.

The last SADC Summit for Heads of State and Government which met in Tanzania resolved on the transformation of SADC PF and assigned the Secretariats of SADC and SADC PF to jointly work on modalities related to certain matters including the model of the envisaged regional parliament.

The Executive Secretary of SADC Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax,
is scheduled to personally present a statement on matters of regional interest.

In line with established practice, representatives of continental and regional parliaments are expected to deliver statements of solidarity with SADC PF during the Plenary. They include the Pan African Parliament (PAP), the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament.

For the first time ever, proceedings during the Plenary will be live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube, thus enabling citizens to follow on social media.

Madagascar became the 15th Member State at the 46th Plenary. The Speaker of the National Assembly of Madagascar and other MPs will participate during the Plenary.

The island nation of Seychelles will not participate during this Plenary after its National Assembly was dissolved in August in preparation for elections scheduled for 24 October this year.

Yet another highlight of this Plenary is that the president of SADC PF Hon. Esperanca Laurinda Francisco Nhiuane, Speaker of the Assembly of the Republic of Mozambique, will be presiding for the first time after taking over from her compatriot who left the Forum to take up a cabinet position following the 2019 general elections.

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