Thenjiwe Ngwenya Correspondent
The appointment of Boemo Sekgoma as the first woman to head the SADC Parliamentary Forum signals another step towards equal representation of women and men in political and other decision-making positions in southern Africa.

Sekgoma was named as the SADC Parliamentary Forum (PF) Secretary General at the 45th Session of the Plenary Assembly held in Maputo, Mozambique in July.

Prior to her appointment, she was the Acting Secretary General since June 2018, following the departure of Esau Chiviya, who had served the Forum from July 2009.

“I am determined to continue serving the institutional organs of the Forum,” she said, adding that “I am committed to making SADC a better place through parliamentary development.”

One of her major tasks at the helm of the SADC PF is to oversee its transformation into a regional parliament.

This follows high-level support by leaders at the 38th SADC Summit held in Namibia in August 2018 to advance the establishment of a regional parliament as an integral institution to drive forward the regional integration agenda.

The SADC Council of Ministers, which met in March 2019, created a Task Force to undertake an analysis of the structure, functions and the governing legal framework of the proposed regional parliament and to present its findings for consideration when the Council meets again in Dar es Salaam, United Republic on Tanzania, in August ahead of the 39th SADC Summit.

Running under the theme “A Conducive Environment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development, Increased Intra-Regional Trade and Job Creation”, the 39th SADC Summit will deliberate on a wide range of issues, including reviewing progress made towards achieving the long-standing vision of a united, prosperous and integrated region.

The proposed establishment of the SADC Regional Parliament will provide a representative institution for the SADC citizenry, thereby serving as a valid interlocutor for the needs and desires of the general public.

The Executive is already the main driver of regional integration through intergovernmental institutions at senior officials, ministerial or heads of state and governmental levels.

The Judiciary was represented through the now suspended but soon to be reconstituted SADC Tribunal whose primary role is expected to be that of ensuring compliance and resolution of disputes related to the interpretation and application of the SADC Treaty and subsidiary legal instruments.

A missing link would, therefore, be that of the Legislature whose central role would be to spearhead the domestication of regional policy and legal obligations outlined in the SADC Treaty and various sectoral protocols.

Transformation of the SADC PF into a Regional Parliament has been on the table since 2004, but the process and plans were not clearly defined until last year.

The forum is an autonomous institution of SADC established in 1997 as a regional inter-parliamentary body made up of 14 national parliaments, representing more than 3 500 parliamentarians in southern Africa.

The member parliaments are Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

However, the forum has not been able to fully contribute to policy making that is important for regional integration because its formal role on SADC matters has not been fully recognized, nor does its work directly feed into the agenda of the intergovernmental body.

This has seen the national parliaments embarking on a process over the years to forge a working relationship with the SADC Secretariat to create space for parliamentarians to participate more formally in regional integration processes.

In this regard, its transformation into a regional parliament will help to bridge the gap between citizens of southern Africa and regional integration processes.

The Plenary Assembly of the SADC PF is the highest decision-making body of the Forum, which comprises of Speakers or Presiding Officers and Parliamentarians who have been appointed by their national institutions to participate at Forum level.

The newly elected SADC PF leadership, meeting for their 45th Session of the Plenary Assembly held in Maputo, Mozambique in July, agreed that transformation into a regional parliament remains a top priority for the forum.

SADC PF President, Veronica Macamo Dlhovo, who is the Speaker of the Mozambican National Assembly, said the forum will soon convene an urgent meeting to discuss how the transformation into a regional parliament would become a reality.

The 45th Session of the Plenary Assembly, which was officially opened by the President of Mozambique, Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, ran under the theme “Climate Change, Mitigation and Adaptation: The Role of Parliaments, Towards the Implementation of the Paris Declaration and the Katowice Road Map”. —

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