SADC member states were reluctant towards Regional Parliament transformation

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By Mamello Mosaefane

Discussions during a symposium of the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum’s Plenary Assembly have revealed members states were reluctant to accede to transformation into a SADC Parliament.

The SADC Parliamentary Forum Plenary Assembly was held from the 10th-12th and was hosted by the National Assembly of Lesotho virtually.

As panelists who are former members and Office bearers of the Forum who served through the various epochs in the history of the SADC PF lead discussions on the theme “celebrating a new era of democracy towards consolidating the vibrant voices of SADC Parliamentarians” they shared their perspectives based on their enriching experiences while serving as regional legislators.

Former SADC PF Chairperson (2002-2004), Hon. Ntlhoi Motsamai—Minister of Tourism, Environment, and Culture—shared her perspectives on her enriching experience as the Chairperson of the Forum and got members conceding that the long-proposed transformation from a Forum to a Parliament has been long delayed by member states’ reluctance to give away their power.

Motsamai said while they have been working hard for the Forum to be transformed into Parliament member states had been “reluctant to give up their powers to the proposed SADC Parliament, arguing they want to preserve their national power”.

Motsamai further added some of the member states did not have an understanding of what is meant by the transformation and how it works, corroborating Prime Minister Dr. Moeketsi Majoro’s opening remarks.

Prime minister had noted in his opening remarks that “I was one of the holdouts arguing that a supranational body can neither oversee sovereign governments nor legislate in member countries.

“In the end, I was persuaded that the existence of such parliament still has an important role in helping cement the bonds of unity and peace amongst SADC citizens through the pursuit of common legislative standards”.

A former member of the SADC PF, Hon. Motlatsi Maqelepo — Lesotho’s Berea Constituency legislator — said he has been part of the journey towards a transformation towards the SADC Parliament.

It is upon the announcement of the transformation that Maqelepo asked of the difference that will be brought by the transformation, arguing the way of conducting business in the 50th Plenary Assembly session has not changed.

He further added that in his view, the Forum is still doing a consultative job and that working with model laws has always been the way of doing things.

In response, Motsamai said the intention while proposing a transition was to have “a kind of regional Parliament that has legislative powers over the region”.

She however said while delighted about the transformation authorization by the SADC   Heads of State and Government Summit, the question is “Is this the kind of parliament we have been fighting for?”

Motsamai said the kind of Parliament they have always wanted is “a Parliament with legislative powers and making legally binding laws for member states”.

This Motsamai said in reference to other African regional Parliaments and Pan African Parliament that does not have legislative powers.

The model laws which SADC PF uses currently to address issues of common interest in the region are however not binding on member states and Parliaments use them to mirror their own countries’ legislations.

The transformation process currently has no specified timeframe towards complete transformation into a Parliament.

In an interview with KDNews, Member of the SADC PF from the National Assembly of Lesotho, Hon. Ts’epang Ts’ita-Mosena said she does not see the transformation happening in the near future.

“Given the long time we took to get authorization for just the transformation into the SADC Parliament, I do not see the official Parliament happening soon, or at least not before the next Plenary Assembly after this one,” Mosena said.

Addressing an issue of “Amplifying Women Parliamentarians Voices towards Gender Equality in SADC”, former chairperson of the Regional Water Provider Consortium, Hon. Maria de Lourdes Veiga said SADC Women’s caucus has among others achieved recognition to eliminate Gender-Based Violence.

Veiga said the caucus has also achieved recognition of gender-based violence as a crime that the region must tackle with a model law developed to assist the region in combat this crime.

She said when forming managements within the SADC committees, said gender equality is always central.

“Gender equality is not only about getting 50/50 numbers in power making positions, but also transforming gender equality,” Veiga said.

These, she said are some of the milestones achieved by the women’s caucus, which were among SADC PF key milestones.