Moses Magadza in Malawi
LILONGWE – The 51st Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) got off to a colourful and sombre start on Monday in the Malawi capital Lilongwe, with President Lazarus Chakwera calling for unity and voicing his full support for a SADC Regional parliament.
Five Members of Parliament from Namibia are also attending the Plenary under the leadership of Honourable Agnes Mpingana Kafula, MP.
In memory of the former President of Angola, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who died aged 79 in a Barcelona clinic last Friday, President Chakwera, who is also the Chairperson of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) called for a minute of silence when he officially opened the hybrid SADC PF Plenary.
The Malawi Head of state said the SADC Region would benefit from setting up its own regional parliament.
“It is my sincere hope that it being a regional parliament, the Forum will now be able to come up with the laws that will help the region tackle its existing challenges,” he said
He urged all member states to discard old ways of doing things and invent a new era of executing regional initiatives to reaffirm the “values of our SADC union that will actualize our common aspirations”.
He also urged all SADC states to support the programmes and activities of SADC PF for it to achieve its intended objectives.
President Chakwera stressed that the Heads of State and Government which were hosted by Malawi in August last year had approved a proposal to transform the SADC Forum into a regional parliament to make it a legislative
body as opposed to being a mere deliberative one.
The also spoke strongly about the spirit of Ubuntu.
“As you all know from experience, it is in times of hardship, calamity, and uncertainty that we Africans know to lean on those we regard as family.
“It is encoded in our cultural DNA as Africans to treat our family as our primary social security and anchor when we feel lost at sea as individuals,” said Chakwera, adding that for the SADC family, that time of uncertainty to band together for strength and endurance had come.
He expressed concern over “rising tides of global and regional upheavals, a time beset with existential threats to the people’s way of life, common purpose and destiny”.
“Our generation is staring into the chasm of a global recession, economic stagnation, food insecurity, a fragile supply chain, rising global commodity prices, and many enemies of progress looking to exploit the suffering of others to cause social unrest and undermine institutions,” he noted.
He said Malawi had felt the turbulence of a disrupted global economy from the devastation by Cyclone Idai in 2019, a disputed presidential election, and the second wave of Covid-19, a double hit by tropical storms Ana and Gombe, which left a trail of devastation. The country had also felt the knock-on effects of the fast-rising global food, fuel, and fertilizer prices coming in the wake of the war in Eastern Europe.
“But despite these shocks, we have remained confident that we will come out of these raging seas stronger and better, primarily because we know we belong to a great SADC family that knows the importance of leaning on family in times of pain until the darkness passes,” said the President, adding that no storm can break the bonds of solidarity and brotherhood that bind SADC together.
“Not only will we survive this storm together, but we will resolve to build the bridges necessary for reaching a brighter tomorrow,” he boldly stated.
President Chakwera expressed delight that the theme for this Plenary Assembly is: ‘Towards Energy Sufficiency, Sustainability and Self-Sufficiency in the SADC Region’.
“I think this is a well and carefully chosen theme,” he told the delegates.
“It is in tandem with the Maseru 1996 SADC Protocol on Energy which recognizes the importance of energy in pursuit of the SADC vision of economic well-being and poverty eradication in Southern Africa.”
He was confident the deliberations of the Plenary Assembly would be guided and anchored on the founding principles and decades-long quest to diversify energy sources and to transition to green renewable energy.
“In our decades of slumber, we have faced a rude awakening from the Russia-Ukraine conflict that has exposed our vulnerability and insecurity in the area of energy,” he said.
He said the region’s energy insecurity is a threat to democracy and cannot consolidate the gains thereof when people are struggling with energy
needs due to scarcity, inequitable distribution and ever-increasing prices.
“We cannot progress when we are so stuck in a programme meant to electrify our rural areas but only exerts more pressure on the national grid that’s already failing to meet present demands. It is my sincere hope that this Plenary Assembly finds meaningful solutions to the energy problems that are rocking our region.”
He said this would hold the governing institutions of SADC accountable in the implementation of various policies and programmes, as well as allocation of and use of public resources for promoting justice, equitable and sustainable development for all people of the region.
The President said as representatives of the people, if parliamentarians are to bring the desired change on the people they represent, they must cultivate the much-needed political will to advance the policies that are favourable to the citizenry.
“We need to walk the talk on the various initiatives that we come up with. For example, on the issue of energy, I urge our national legislatures to enact green energy responsive legislation, allocating adequate funding to mitigate the effects of climate change and also provide the necessary oversight over the energy sector,” he said.
He called on institutions of higher learning such as universities and colleges, to refocus research and development agendas to the long overdue
transition from overdependence on fossil fuels to green energy while maintaining commitment towards zero carbon emissions in the near future.
He commended the Plenary Assembly Session for plans to consider a draft SADC Model Law on Public Financial Management, as this is one of the principles of good governance.
He told the delegates that earlier this year, the Parliament of Malawi passed a Bill repealing the old Public Finance Management Act of 2003 and replacing it with a new law that provides a robust legal framework to enhance transparency, accountability, efficiency and control in the management of public resources, and it has already started yielding results in stopping fraudsters in their tracks.
“It is my belief that this 51st SADC PF Plenary Assembly Session will come up with resolutions that will help the SADC region to resolve the energy challenges that we face and ensure that the region establishes its Regional Parliament as a matter of urgency.
The next Plenary Assembly Session will be hosted by South Africa.
The speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula gave a vote of thanks at the official opening of the 51st SADC PF Plenary Assembly.
She described President Chakwera, as an unsung hero and thanked him for his support towards transformation of the SADC PF into a Regional Parliament.
On 17 August 2021, President Chakwera navigated the historic 42nd SADC Summit that approved the Transformation of the SADC Summit into a Regional Parliament and the attendant Transformation Roadmap.
“With that decision, the SADC PF will no longer be the illegitimate son fighting for recognition and space in the SADC family,” she said.
She also paid tribute to the Speaker of the Malawi Parliament, Honourable Catherine Gotani Hara, for leading her parliament in successfully hosting the first physical Plenary Assembly session since the outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
“The logistical arrangements have been meticulous. The hospitality and warm welcome by the people of Malawi has reaffirmed why the Republic of Malawi is aptly referred to as “The Warm Heart of Africa.”
She also expressed gratitude to Regional Parliaments that have expressed their solidarity with the SADC Parliamentary Forum.
“As we begin the process of transformation into a SADC Regional Parliament, we will quite often call on you for advice and best practice in this evolutionary process guided by the Transformation Roadmap. We thus look forward to long and mutually beneficial partnerships with EALA, the ECOWAS Parliament and the Pan-Africa Parliament.”
Mapisa-Nquka also expressed gratitude to the leadership of the SADC Parliamentary Forum led by Honourable Speaker Mboso N’kpdia Pwanga Christophe, “for competently steering the ship” with the support of the SADC PF Secretariat led by Secretary General Ms Boemo Sekgoma.