By Staff Reporters

Pan-African Parliament (PAP) sitting of permanent committees had a dark start as
loadshedding greeted the opening session. The sitting is expected to convene from 6 until 17 March, held under the African Union (AU) 2023 theme; “Accelerating the implementation of African Continental Free Trade Area(ACFTA).”

Speaking ahead of the session at the weekend, PAP president Chief Fortune Charumbira
called on members to ensure that their work is geared towards helping Africa.“There is a need for proper planning in permanent committees as far as issues affecting the continent are concerned. Members need to work wholeheartedly in looking at issues affecting Africa as it is the only way the continent can benefit, for its good and that of its people,” he said.

The host nation is battling escalating rampant power outages. From chaotic traffic lights malfunction that result in car crashes, the rise opportunistic criminals, rotting food, decomposing bodies, bankrupt businesses, and water shortages, South Africa’s widespread power blackouts is crippling the nation’s economy.

As darkness struck the parliament chambers, PAP Charumbira took responsibility for the
chaos. He apologized to members of parliament and delegates. Instead of embarrassing the
host nation, he encouraged the parliament’s committees to “plan properly in order to eradicate this challenge in the continent. The Energy Committee of PAP should look into this energy crisis and come up with solutions,” he said.

The morning session would have seen the swearing in of new members who would have
been designated to committees, PAP president was to address the assembly on the mandate of permanent committees and expected output from African citizens. The theme was to be unpacked and the session would have discussed the role of the PAP in implementing ACFTA.

Instead, the parliamentarians wondered about the parliament precinct, took a tour on the
next door Gallagher Estate whilst others gallivanted around Midrand and the rest of
Johannesburg for four hours until power was expected back. A lot work of the committee and resources by both the host nation and the countries of diplomats was severely affected by the delay. Over the next two weeks, the committees are due to cover very serious issues including crime, health care and human rights.

The Committee on Rural Economy, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment was
due to discuss financial transaction tax and climate change. This discussion was to be led by
a French economist turned politician Pierre Larrouturou who is member of the European parliament. The Committee on Justice and Human Rights was to be address by an astute African jurist Justice Tujilane Chizumila. Chizumila is a Malawian lawyer and jurist who has served on the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights since 2017.

Another highlight of the day was expected to have been a presentation by Netherlands’ Tilburg University Mirjam van Reisen. Professor van Reisen was expected to address the Committee on Health, Labor and Social Affairs on the  patient and health data and intelligence in Africa for epidemiological early warning systems. Transnational organized crime and drug trafficking in Africa and how the United Nations
Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) could collaborate with the African Parliament in dealing with this scourge would have been addressed by UNODC Regional Representative for Southern Africa Jane Marie Ogola Ongolo.

A South African diplomat who did not want to be named said load shedding was
embarrassing South Africa. “This is so embarrassing, it not as if we did not know that this session was to happen. Out of respect to our guests, we could have planned with them. What is worse is that, this is not
for the first time (load shedding during PAP sitting). We did the same thing last year,” he said.

He also said the country was being embarrassed by its head of State who has constantly
snubbed the African legislative body. “President Ramaphosa has constantly demonstrated disdain towards PAP. In October lastyear, he was meant to address the parliament on key strategic issues including the permanent building for the parliament but he sent Ronald Lamola (Minister of Justice and
Correctional Services). This time he has done even worse, he has delegate a Deputy Minister (International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Candith Mashego-Dlamini),” the diplomat complained.  

Asked by The Telegram to comment on the matter, PAP president Charumbira down played
the diplomatic embarrassment saying, “we are happy that president Ramaphosa always
sends someone if not available.”

The Ramaphosa no show was “creating a diplomatic incident” to the African parliamentary
body the aggrieved South African MP told The Telegram. “PAP would have loved to invite its founding member Thabo Mbeki last year during the South Sudan peace breakthrough when another founding member Nigerian Olusegun Obasanjo was here. But they couldn’t because they cant invite Mbeki before the sitting president,” he said.

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