LUANDA, ANGOLA – The 43rd Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF), got underway here early this week with the President of Angola strongly denouncing suspected grenade attacks that appeared to have targeted the leaders of Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.
Last Saturday, an explosion rocked White City Stadium in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city where President Emmerson Mnangagwa had been addressing a rally. Although the Zimbabwean Head of State escaped unscathed, nearly 50 people including his two deputies were injured. Reports now indicate that two of those injured have succumbed to their injuries.
Also last week, a grenade exploded killing two people and injuring many others at a rally for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa.
While officially opening the SADC PF Plenary Session, Angolan President Joao Lourenco strongly condemned the attack that took place in Zimbabwe at a public rally as “cowardly, criminal and undemocratic”.
He encouraged Zimbabweans to continue working toward holding elections scheduled for July 30, 2018. Angola chairs the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, a body created by SADC to deal with peace and security matters in SADC.
Lourenco said the attacks must be condemned because they sought to undermine efforts that are ongoing toward holding democratic elections, particularly in Zimbabwe.
He said the attacks were reprehensible, also, because they happened at a political rally where many innocent people could be maimed or killed while exercising their civil liberties which are enshrined in the Constitution as well as in the constitutive instruments of SADC, including the revised principles and guidelines governing democratic elections.
Turning to regional integration and development, he called for concerted efforts towards the SADC region’s industrialisation and optimum use of its natural resources.
The Plenary Assembly session is being held under the theme: Deepening SADC Economic Integration Through Industrialisation: The Role of Parliament. Lourenco said the theme was apt given current socioeconomic challenges within the SADC Region that include inability to respond to the needs of the youth in terms of employment.
Observers say industrialisation can ensure that as economies of SADC Member States grow, they yield tangible benefits for young people, many of whom have nothing to lose or gain from what has been described as jobless economic growth in some circles.
The SADC PF has been in existence for 21 years and discussions around the role of Members of Parliament in consolidating its gains are gaining traction, with some people citing delays in transforming it into a SADC Regional Parliament as a serious institutional gap thwarting regional integration.
Lourenco reaffirmed Angola’s commitment to the regional integration agenda and in supporting the role of Parliament. He told delegates that the issue of SADC PF’s transformation into a SADC Regional Parliament was being considered at the highest level in Angola and would be discussed at the next summit for SADC Heads of State and Government scheduled for Namibia.
The Speaker of the National Assembly of Angola Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos, is President of SADC PF. Speaking at the same occasion, he called for new and innovative strategies to promote rapid regional economic integration.
SADC PF Acting Secretary General, Boemo Sekgoma told the Angolan President that the Forum had evolved “to tackle issues of major concern to the SADC Region such as good governance, trade, women empowerment, gender equality, and HIV and AIDS, among others.”
Sekgoma said as the main policy organ of the SADC PF, the Plenary Assembly had consistently provided a platform which had helped to shape policy and parliamentary processes in all SADC Member States. She explained that 12 SADC Member States were represented.
Notable among delegates attending the plenary are: Hon Fernando da Piedade Dias, Speaker of the National Assembly of Angola; the Rt. Hon Siphiri Motanyane, Speaker of the National Assembly of Lesotho; Hon Veronica Nathaniel Macamo Dlhova, Speaker of the National Assembly of Mozambique; Hon Professor Peter Katjavivi, Speaker of the National Assembly of Namibia; Hon Nicholas Prea, Speaker of the National Assembly of Seychelles; Hon Baleka Mbete, Speaker of Parliament of South Africa; and Hon Advocate Jacob Mudenda, Speaker of the National Assembly of Zimbabwe.
The Parliament of the Kingdom of Eswatini and Mauritius are absent with apologies.
The East African Legislative Assembly and the Pan African Parliament sent representatives who reiterated the importance of regional parliaments in fostering regional integration.
The 43rd Plenary Assembly Session is being held in the Palace of the National Assembly of Angola, marking the first time that it has been held in a building of a Member Parliament. Some delegates say the fact that Angola put its majestic parliament at the disposal of the Forum during this Plenary is procedurally significant.
Said one delegate: “It is a demonstration of the readiness and the acceptance of by the membership of SADC PF that we are indeed a parliament that has come of age. It speaks to the issue of transformation that SADC PF has been pushing for”.