Claims of gender-based violence have rocked the Pan-African Parliament after representatives tussled over the next president of the institution’s bureau.
The incident happened during a session on Monday as the legislators listened to a presentation by an ad-hoc committee formed to harmonise proposals on how to elect the next president.
A clip aired by South African channel News24 showed representatives hassling one another, with South African legislator Pemmy Majodina, the ANC chief whip, claiming she had been hit by her Senegalese counterpart Djibril War.
According to her, she was trying to stop an altercation between Mr War, a Senegalese politician, and a Zimbabwean legislator.
“I went in there to make peace. As I was trying to separate them … it was at this stage that I was hit by the Hon Djibril (Cisse),” Majodina told News24, threatening to sue.
The Senegalese, however, promptly apologised on the floor and later told the channel the incident was an accident that took place as he tried to stop a colleague recording the chaos on phone.
The incident, however, soiled a day in which the Pan-African Parliament, the legislative body of the African Union, which is based in Johannesburg, was trying to elect a president to take over from Zimbabwe’s Fortune Charumbira.
AU Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat expressed concerns about the chaos, saying the representatives have to follow the law.
“The shocking scenes of violence at the Pan-African Parliament today tarnish the image of this honourable institution.
“I appeal to all parliamentarians to recover their composure and comply with the rules and procedures of the institution,” Faki said of the incident.
Charumbira, currently the Fourth Vice President, has been acting since April 2020 when the holder of the post, Algeria’s Bouras Djamel was recalled to his country.
The bone of contention was whether the delegates should adopt a rotational policy or stick to the traditional majority-vote system.
Under the majority system, all regions of Africa except the south have held the presidency, represented by Tanzania, Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon and Algeria. But the rules of procedure are such that candidates, regardless of regions, can compete with the one, with the highest votes clinching the seat.
Vice presidents are chosen from the top four contenders for the post and ranked from the highest votes gained.
Southern African representatives ganged around Zimbabwean Charumbira but the move was opposed by west African representatives. A presentation by Zimbabwe’s Barbara Rwodzi was interrupted by a member from west Africa.
South Africa’s vocal opposition leader Julius Malema interrupted the session, demanding that there had been an attack on a female colleague.
Malema, a representative from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) demanded an adjournment. Later, other delegates claimed they felt unsafe from South African colleagues. The session adjourned.
Although, usually, all citizens of the African Union member States qualify to contest, the debate was on whether Haidara Aichata Cisse of Mali can remain a candidate when his country has had a coup.
Usually, member states who experience coups have their voting rights suspended until they return to civilian rule. It doesn’t state whether candidates from those countries can contest. In the past, candidates from troubled countries have been accepted for other AU contests.
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Ahead of the elections, a legal advisory from the AU Commission told members to stick to the tradition of balancing regional representations.
Composed of five representatives per member States that ratified the Pan-African Parliament protocol, with at least one woman, the Parliament is the deliberative organ for the African Union. Each of the member’s term begins and ends like their home legislative terms.
Although the main decision-making body of the Parliament is the Plenary (composed of all representatives) chaired by the president, the organ is also led by the bureau, which is composed of the president and four vice presidents who all represent the five regions and is the management and administrative arm of Parliament.
It needs a stable run of affairs to implement its functions, such as overseeing implementation of AU policies, and adopting AU budgets and rules of procedure.
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