INTERVENTION BY THE SPEAKER OF THE PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE
HON. ADVOCATE JACOB FRANCIS NZWIDAMILIMO MUDENDA
“THE WINDHOEK INITIATIVE AND THE BIRTH OF THE SADC PARLIAMENTARY FORUM:
CELEBRATING THE EMERGENCE OF THE
VOICE OF PARLIAMENTS IN SADC REGIONAL INTEGRATION”
- Our host Speaker, the Rt. Hon. Sephiri Motanyane, Speaker of the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Lesotho;
- The President of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, Hon. Speaker Christophe Mboso N’kodia Pwanga;
- The Vice-President, Hon. Dr. Fiarovana Lovanirina Celéstin;
- Speakers here present;
- Members of the SADC Parliamentary Forum;
- The Secretary General, Ms. Boemo Sekgoma, and your staff;
- Distinguished Invited Guests;
- Ladies and Gentlemen;
- Comrades and Friends;
As we join hands in celebrating the historic 50th Plenary Assembly of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, allow me to preface my remarks with an illustrative quotation from the renowned Indian surgeon and author, Dr. Roopleen, who affirmed that, “Celebrating your achievements and applauding your triumphs is a sure way to refuel your enthusiasm and keep yourself motivated for future endeavours.”
Indeed, we are gathered here not only to celebrate the long road that we have traversed since the Windhoek Initiative which gave birth to the SADC Parliamentary Forum on 7th September 1997, in Blantyre, Malawi, but also to motivate ourselves for the SADC-PF responsibilities that lie ahead, albeit as the SADC Regional Parliament. On this auspicious occassion, the SADC Summit resolved to establish the SADC Parliamentary Forum whose main objective was to “constitute a Parliamentary Consultative Assembly, the ultimate goal being the establishment of a Regional Parliamentary Framework for dialogue on issues of regional interest and concern.’ Need I not remind ourselves that the seed of the Windhoek Initiative had finally sprouted after four years of gestation, a profound proof that noble ideas never die in limbo! That is why fast forward to 18 August 2021, ironically and fortuitously again in Lilongwe, Malawi, the 41st Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government resolved as follows:
“Summit approved the transformation of the SADC Parliamentary
Forum into a SADC Parliament as a consultative and a deliberative body”.
It is only befitting, therefore, that we commemorate the 50th Plenary Assembly session soon after the purpose of our creation or what Lance Secretan in his seminal book Inspirational Leadership: Destiny, Calling and Cause (1999) calls our Destiny is firmly on its way to consummation. To borrow from Lance Secretan, Destiny foretells why an organization is in existence. Thus, the Forum, from the very beginning, was created to be “a regional Parliamentary Framework for dialogue on issues of mutual concern.” Clearly, the approval by the 41st SADC Summit for the Forum to transform “into a SADC Parliament as a consultative and deliberative body” resonates with the original intent of its creation. Accordingly, one of the historic milestones we ought to celebrate today, is the approval of the Transformation Agenda, after a spirited campaign by SADC PF for almost fifteen years.
Let me remind this Symposium that, notwithstanding the 1997 Summit resolution which envisioned the metamorphosis of the Forum into a SADC Regional Parliament, repeated submissions on the Transformation Agenda to Summit by the SADC Parliamentary Forum in 2004, 2008, 2011 and 2015 were rejected. We persisted on the mould of the words of Bishop T.D. Jakes who opined that, “Destiny is not for comfort seekers. Destiny is for the daring and determined who are willing to at times endure some discomfort, delayed gratification but still go where destiny leads.” ³ Indeed Destiny prompted us to dare the rejection. Destiny remained the kernel of our determination to shoulder on. Destiny salted our endurance despite the unpalatable discomfort of the rejection. Of course, Destiny assiduously assured us of delayed gratification in welcoming the dawn of the Regional Parliament. Furthermore, to draw from the scriptures, Joseph was destined to be the Prime Minister of Egypt but before that he was sold into servitude, falsely accused of rape and even served time in prison before ascending to the throne. In that regard, we should thus pay tribute to all the Speakers of Parliament past and present, the Strategic Lobby Team of Hon. Speakers, our forbearers and staff who resolutely kept on pursuing the Transformation Agenda, until its actualization by the 41st Ordinary SADC Summit of 18th August 2021. This is indeed the critical juncture our 50th Plenary assembly ought to celebrate exhilariously.
Going forward, we need to reflect on the import of the resolution made at the 41st August SADC Summit which underscores the main objectives of establishing the Regional Parliament as encapsulated in Article 6 of the proposed Protocol Establishing the Regional Parliament entitled “Objectives of the SADC Parliament”. This Article emphasises that the SADC Parliament will be birthed under the direction and superintendence of the SADC Summit as one of its organs once the transformation Protocol is ratified by the Summit. Such an institution does not seek to exist outside the realm of the mother body, namely, the SADC Summit. Neither does it seek to challenge any future decisions of the Summit. Instead, it seeks to support and popularize the decisions of the Summit by advancing its protocols through parliamentary processes. We, as the Regional legislature to be, are fully in agreement with the envisaged consequential amendments to the proposed SADC Treaty as shall be amended. Furthermore, the proposed SADC Parliament will not exercise oversight on, for example, the SADC draft legal instruments and its annual budgets as long as the SADC Summit has not yet been transformed into a supra-regional body. It, therefore, will be presumptuous for the SADC Parliament to evolve into a decision-making authority over SADC Summit operations. Such preposterous pandering has been recognized as counterproductive, a folly attempted in the initial phase of the Transformation Agenda, which consequently then forestalled progress in an otherwise cumulatively straight forward roadmap towards the transformation of the SADC PF into a Regional Parliament. Declaratorily, the supreme authority of the SADC Summit shall not be undermined by the envisaged SADC Parliament as was the case with the stalled SADC Tribunal. Rather positively, the Regional Parliament will strive for integration premised on regional economic development and shared parliamentary processes that ride on best practices from Member Parliaments. As I have always emphasised to my fellow Presiding Officers, it is not proper to create a creature that ends up devouring its creator as was the case with the SADC Tribunal. In this regard, due caution has been exercised in championing the cause of this intended Regional Parliament.
To ensure that we succeed in the transitioning to a Regional Parliament, it is my considered view that there is need for an enduring consultative framework between our Executives and the Legislatures within SADC as a guiding maxim to ensure that unintended outcomes may not find their way into the final Regional Parliament architecture. This will be done by ensuring that key structures such as the Joint Task Team led by the Secretary General and the SADC Secretary working under the stewardship of the Strategic Lobby Team of Hon. Speakers continue to collaborate as guardians and custodians of the Transformation Agenda. In actual fact, the latter should act as a guiding technical working group at the political level in order to keep the Transformative Agenda within the SADC Summit Decision radar.
It will also be imperative for Hon. Speakers to share the Draft Protocol for Transformation with their Ministers of Justice, Foreign Affairs and the Attorney Generals in order to ensure that when the SADC Summit comes up with the proposed Protocol on transformation, Members will be well informed and so grounded. All SADC PF Members are also called upon to studiously read the Proposed Protocol once it is submitted by their respective Ministers of Foreign Affairs so as to make incisive input that will accelerate the transformation process to take place before 2023.
Hon. President, Hon. Speakers, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our achievements are many and varied as indicated by those who have spoken before me. We have been at the forefront of normative standard-setting through the development of Model Laws and Standards which serve as benchmarks for the enactment, amendment and/or repeal of municipal legislation. Speaking for the Parliament of Zimbabwe, and I am confident that I also speak on behalf of other Member Parliaments, I can assertively state that the Model Law on Eradicating Child Marriages and Protecting Children Already in Marriage (2016) has contributed to the review of the Marriages Bill which is currently before our Parliament. Similarly, I envisage that the Norms and Standards for Democratic Elections (2001), the Model Law on HIV/AIDS (2008), the Model Law on Elections (2019) and the impending Model Law on Gender Based Violence as well as the Model Law on Public Financial Management will continue to contribute to the repeal, review and may lead to the harmonisation of legislation in the region in order to ensure that our legislative agenda in the respective Member Parliaments is enriched in such a manner as to promote democracy, the Bill of Rights and the rule of law within SADC.
Hon. Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Forum has also remained alive to the mandatory requirement for gender mainstreaming in all its structures and programmes. Accordingly, in line with the provisions of Article 7 (2) of the Constitution, Member Parliaments are obligated to ensure equitable representation of women in designating the five (5) SADC PF representatives. Additionally, the Forum takes cognisance of the Zebra system in approving the appointment of Chairpersons and Vice-Chairpersons of Standing Committees. The SADC Parliamentary Forum, as “the flag-bearer of democratisation and socio-economic development in the Region,” is compelled by its ambitious Vision to be at the forefront of the fight for justice, equality, equity and human rights for vulnerable groups, particularly women and youth. More so, with just slightly less than ten years left to achieve gender equality by 2030, the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals, the SADC Parliamentary Forum needs to continue to up its political mantra if the targets set in the SADC Gender Protocol are to be achieved. To that an extent, we cannot celebrate the 50th Plenary Assembly without accenting to gender mainstreaming in our Parliamentary processes let alone failing to uplift the youth and the vulnerable groups in the same processes. Herein lies the ethos and anthem of celebrating the emergence of the voice of Parliaments in SADC regional integration as we beckon the critical juncture of our Regional Parliament. LONG LIVE THE WINDHOEK INITIATIVE!!!
I so submit, Hon. Chairperson.
THANK YOU ALL!
 Communique of the 41st Ordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government, 18 August 2021
³ T.D. Jakes Soar : Build Your Vision From the Ground Up (2017:63)