By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU- There has recently been an attempt to usurping the Pan African Parliament’s (PAP) President, Chief Fortune Zephania Charumbira by the 2nd Vice-President Dr Ashebir Woldegiorgis Gayo.

Present President of the PAP, Chief Charumbira had temporarily vacated his seat because of the current elections in his country, Zimbabwe.  He was also sworn in, on September 7 in the Zimbabwean Parliament.

He is expected to return and resume his duties as the President in line with the provisions of Rule 9(3) of the PAP Rules of Procedure.

Article 5(1) of the PAP Protocol reads: “The Pan African Parliamentarians shall be elected or designated by the respective National Parliaments…”

It is reported that while the President was away, Dr Gayo, arrived at the continental parliament and allegedly arrogated unto himself powers including to announce the vacancy of the Presidency position and making appointments to offices such as that of Director of the Bureau. The seemingly “self-appointed” President had also accused Chief Charumbira of embezzling the parliament’s funds to the tune of USD1.2 million, approximately M22.8 million, charges that had also been rubbished by the Parliament.

As this was happening, there was an Acting President already in office, Hon Lucia Maria Mendes Goncalves Dos Passos who is the 3rd Vice-President was appointed by Chief Charumbira as per the rotational principle in place.

It would be recalled that Dr Gayo had previously stood out to be against rotational leadership at PAP. 

The attempts by the 2nd Vice-President had since been denounced by the PAP.

In its strong worded statement issued by the Acting President, accused Dr Gayo of being “power hungry” saying he has no business in dismissing anyone from the continental Parliament.

“The allegations of embezzling of USD1.2 million are nothing more than a malicious vendetta of vilification and character assassination driven by the shameless political ambitions of the 2nd Vice-President, Hon. Dr Ashebir Woldegiorgis Gayo, and his cohort.

“In fact, Dr Gayo and his team are frantically trying to ‘cook up evidence to back that claim and have been harassing staff in the PAP’s Finance Department to give them details of the missions that Chief Charumbira has undertaken since the beginning of the 6th Parliament as well as details of support staff hired during sessions in a desperate bid to find something that can stick,” reads the Parliament’s statement.

It continues, “The PAP Plenary Assembly is the supreme decision-making body of the Pan African Parliament. No individual has the authority to reverse the decisions of the Plenary, not even the substantive President himself.

“Therefore, only the appointing authority, in this case [is] the Plenary Assembly, can dismiss the President.”

PAP has experienced its fair share of challenges and problems since its establishment.

In May 2021, the Plenary session of this Parliament witnessed the objection of the swearing-in of the South Sudan delegation on grounds that they were recently appointed into their national Parliament,  and had not been sworn-in as Members in that jurisdiction. This objection was nonetheless overruled through the invocation of the PAP Article 5(1) which states that once a National Parliament had made the designation, the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline had cleared them.

Also in 2021, this Parliament was visited by a battle of the “principle of geographical rotation” where some were against the election of Chief Charumbira, from the South region. This caused the suspension of that session and necessitated the intervention of the African Union Commission.

The issue was however resolved and the elections continued in the next session.

Established on March 18, 2004, following the African Heads of States meeting in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, the meeting which culminated in the adoption of the Malabo Protocol, the PAP is a platform for all African states that have ratified this protocol have the representation of five parliamentarians per membership in this continental parliament, for a five-year term in office.

In the similar vein, the African Parliamentary Press Network (APPN), a continental network for Parliament reporting journalists and Parliament information officers, had expressed worry over the leadership tussle at the PAP.

“It is a well-known fact that Parliaments all over the world are masters of their own Rules. The onus to change, amend, or step down this Rule is the sole prerogative of the Parliament itself and no other body or institution.

“The APPN therefore finds it scandalous the recent leadership turmoil at the PAP, where individual Members of the Parliament are alleged to have taken actions that contravenes the provisions of the Rules of Procedure of the Pan-African Parliament. 

“This should not be tolerated in any terms or form. Parliaments all over the world have their Standing Order, which they comply with strictly. Anyone who falls short of this Rules is dealt with according to the provisions of that Rules, and the PAP cannot be an exception to this rule.”

Meanwhile, it is expected that the upcoming Plenary will pronounce itself and probably consider these developments on leadership struggle that had recently unfolded.

PAP was established to “ensure the full participation of African peoples in the development and economic integration of the continent”.