Minister Nkoana-Mashabane’s address at the opening of the 3rd Ordinary Session of the Second Pan-African Parliament, Midrand, Monday, 04 October 2010

The President of the Pan African Parliament, Dr Idriss Ndele Moussa
Honourable Minister and Deputy Ministers;
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners;
Distinguished Guests; and
Ladies and Gentlemen:

I would like to thank you for inviting me to speak to this pivotal Organ of the African Union on the occasion of the opening of the 3rd Ordinary Session of the Second Pan African Parliament. Indeed we are very proud as the Republic of South Africa and the entire Southern Africa region to have been given this opportunity by the African Union (AU) to host the Pan African Parliament (PAP).

On behalf of the people and the government of the Republic of South Africa, I wish to convey our warmest greetings. I would like to say to all of you that you are welcome!

We take this opportunity, once again, to thank you as representatives of the African Union (AU) member states for the support you gave us when we hosted - together and successfully -  the first FIFA World Cup on African soil. That event showcased to the world that our continent is a sleeping giant; set to a play a more important role in this century.

Mr President

The institutional birth of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) can be traced to the Abuja Treaty that was signed in June 1991 and came into force in May 1994. The Treaty called for the establishment of the PAP as a platform for the African peoples to be actively involved in the affairs and decisions of the African Union (AU). However, the Treaty envisioned a long term establishment of the PAP.

But, the 4th Extra-Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of state and government of the Organisation of the African Union (OAU) held in Sirte, Libya, in September 1999, adopted the Sirte Declaration which called for, among others, the speedy establishment of the PAP. The Sirte Declaration marked a great leap in the coming into existence of the PAP. In July 2000, the 36th Ordinary Session of the Conference of the Heads of states and government in Lomé, Togo adopted the Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU), which provided for the PAP as one of the Organs of the AU.

We believe as a country, that the Pan African Parliament is a very important Organ of the AU that has a critical role in the democratisation process of our continent towards peace-building, development, unity and integration.

The vision of the AU in establishing the PAP was to ensure that the peoples of Africa become active participants in the decisions of the AU pertaining to all aspects of our integration. We are therefore privileged as a country to have this opportunity to host an Organ of the AU, whose task is to promote the shared values of democracy and good governance.

It was in this light that our president, His Excellency Jacob G Zuma, addressing this assembly last year, expressed an unwavering support of our government to processes aimed at gradually transforming PAP towards a legislative body, as envisaged in its founding protocol. The AU, we believe, needs an effective and efficient Pan African Parliament (PAP) that will contribute towards the entrenchment of the culture of democracy and good governance; as enshrined in the Constitution Act.

Indeed, the theme that has been agreed to for the next AU Summit to be held in Addis Ababa early next year, will be the promotion of the shared values. In this regard, we commend the PAP for regional campaigns in Uganda, Chad and Zimbabwe for making the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance known all over our continent. The PAP is demonstrating through this campaign that it is well placed to support the implementation of the AU’s Summit decisions.

Mr President

The Charter [on Democracy, Elections and Governance] is predated on the objectives and principles enshrined in the AU’s Constitutive Act, particularly Article 3 and 4 which emphasise the promotion of democracy and good governance, public participation, respect for the rule-of-law, and promotion and protection of human rights on the continent. In this regard, we share the concern expressed by many on our continent that the pace of the accession to this instrument has been far from satisfactory. The records of the African Union Commission shows that by 31 August 2010, thirty seven (37) countries had signed the Charter and only six (6) had ratified and deposited their instruments with the Commission. This could have changed during the past month, however, the pace does remain slow.

For our own part, we signed the instrument in February 2010 and I can reveal that the process of ratification is at an advanced stage. I say so to further encourage member states that have not yet signed and ratified the Charter to also embark on this process as it is for our common good. This Charter, as you are all aware, aims to help improve not only political governance on our continent, but also our economic and social governance. It is a known fact that socio-economic development can be best realised in conditions under which public administration is efficient and effective, as well as transparent and accountable. It is the responsibility of the political leadership to create and foster such conditions for socio-economic upliftment objectives to be realised.

This Charter provides us with an instrument which promotes the participation of our people in democratic processes, which is not limited to electing political leadership, but also in the administration of their affairs for the betterment of their lives. The Charter gives the necessary impetus for participatory democracy, whereby all segments of the society have a say in the administration of public affairs. The PAP, as a voice for our people, is well suited to promote participatory on the continent. This participatory democracy requires the continued participation of stronger and vibrant civil society and watchdog bodies.

Once the Charter has entered into force, the PAP will have to work with all of us; to assist us with its implementation and especially its domestication by AU member states. It is through its effective and comprehensive domestication, that the Charter will have the intended impact on our respective countries. When the Charter is fully domesticated into our countries, its dreams will be a reality, and its promises a fact-of-life for our people. Our success in the domestication of the Charter will in many ways reinforce our ongoing efforts to strengthen existing institutions which are meant to support democracy in our countries.

Honourable Members

It is worth recalling that the AU has declared this year as the Year of Peace. We believe that the members of the PAP are well placed as they come from all over the continent to promote peace. By working together, as members of the PAP, you have proved that Africans can be united for a common cause regardless of their diversity. Therefore, the PAP is well placed to spread this message of peace all over the continent. It has been said many times that without peace there can be no development.

I am aware if the good work that the PAP has been doing over the years in the peace and security domain, we commend you and encourage you to do more. We are pleased that your work is not confined to countries in conflict, but you try to include in your list [of countries] those that are emerging from conflicts and those in advanced stages of post-conflict reconstruction and development. The efforts of the PAP in peace and security area will go a long way in enhancing our ongoing efforts to deal with unconstitutional changes of government. The resurgence of this phenomenon undermines our continued efforts to entrench and consolidate democracy on the continent, and remains a threat to the stability of Africa.

It has also become more urgent for us to review AU’s instruments we have in place to inform our response to cases of unconstitutional change of government. Our leaders have come to a determination that there are loopholes in these instruments that perpetrators of unconstitutional change of government exploit, to their benefit but to the detriment of our continent.

We have to eradicate conflicts on the face of our continent, if we want the next fifty years of our independence to be different from the ones we have experienced.

In the next fifty years, we should not be talking of an Africa that is rising but an Africa that has arisen. In the next fifty years, we should not be talking of an Africa that is emerging frontier of opportunities and economic growth, but an Africa that is an expanding frontier of endless opportunities and boundless economic growth.

I have just returned from a meeting of the international community in New York City, at the United Nations, to review our performance on achieving our targets for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The prospects are not encouraging for our continent, but I believe that with bodies like the PAP, our continent can be marshalled into a force formidable enough to make maximum use of the remaining five years towards the MDGs deadline of 2015, for a better life for our people. The next fifty years must belong to all our people.

Mr President

We, as the South African government, would like to see a PAP that is effective and efficient, and able to support the integration process of the AU. For this to happen, it is for the PAP to ensure that the institution is underpinned by a competent and efficient administration based on the principle of good governance.

I say this mindful of the fact that the PAP requires capacity to carry out its important functions, it remains important in this regard for member states to continue to provide the required support to the PAP to enable it to carry out its mandate. It is, therefore, necessary for us to redouble our efforts in working towards the transformation of this Organ from its advisory status to a legislative one.

We [South Africa] support the campaign and the decision of the AU to have the protocol of the PAP reviewed to ensure a stronger parliament. We remain committed, as the South African government, to honouring our undertaking to build a permanent home for the PAP so that the honourable members of this parliament can enjoy a comfortable stay as they do their work.

We, therefore, wish you success in your deliberations throughout the session.

Let me again welcome you to the Republic of South Africa. Your presence in our country for this session reassures us that we will not fail our people when we have on our continent leaders of your calibre who are ready to leave behind their homes and families to serve Africa

It is this kind of commitment that will ensure that when we celebrate the centenary of our independence - in the next fifty years - our continent must be a better shape and our people living a prosperous and better life.

I thank you

~ends~

Issued by

Department of International Relations and Cooperation
460 Soutpansberg Road
Rietondale, Pretoria
RSA

04 October 2010


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