Communiqué 34th Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, Arusha, Tanzania, 14th-24th October 2013

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Communiqué

34th Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, Arusha,

Tanzania, 14th-24th October 2013

"BENCHMARKING THE CONDUCT AND ASSESSMENT OF ELECTIONS IN SOUTHERN AFRICA."

1. The 34th Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) was held in Arusha, Tanzania, from 14th to 24 th October 2013, under the theme "Benchmarking the Conduct and Assessment of Elections in Southern Africa."

2. Member Parliaments of SADC PF, namely, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, attended the 34th Plenary Assembly Session. Botswana and Swaziland tendered apologies.

3. Representatives from the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), the East African Community (EAC), Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Southern Africa Resources Watch (SARW), were in attendance as invited guests at the 34 th Plenary Assembly Session.

4. Also in attendance was Hon. Pius Msekwa, a founding Member of the SADC PF and former Speaker of Bunge la Tanzania (Parliament of Tanzania), senior officials from the Government of Tanzania and Mr Rushdi Nackerdien who was the resource person for the theme.

5. The 34th Plenary Assembly welcomed the new Speaker of the National Assembly of Zimbabwe, Hon. Adv. Jacob Francis Mudenda, and the Members of Parliament from Zimbabwe who were elected during the 31st July 2013 Elections.

6. In his introductory remarks during the Official Opening Ceremony, Dr. Esau Chiviya, the Secretary-General of the SADC PF, reiterated that the 34 th Plenary Assembly Session was significant in the history of the SADC PF in that, it would adopt the revised Constitution and Rules of Procedure, marking the transition from the hitherto conference style to embracing the Parliamentary operational framework.

7. In her remarks during the opening ceremony, Regional Women Parliamentary Caucus (RWPC) Deputy Chairperson, Hon. Candida Celeste de Silva, underscored the need for SADC Member States to put in place the necessary administrative, legislative and constitutional mechanisms for the attainment of gender parity in line with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development ahead of the 2015 deadline.

8. Addressing the opening ceremony in his capacity as the Acting Chairperson of SADC PF, the Speaker of the National Assembly of Zambia, Hon. Justice Dr. Patrick Matibini, SC, MP, reiterated that SADC PF had come of age since its establishment as a parliamentary deliberative forum and should, therefore, be transformed into a SADC Regional Parliament.

9. Hon. Matibini further noted that in pursuit of its transformation, the SADC PF had resolved to support the implementation capacity of SADC by among other strategies, aligning its Standing Committees and programmes to the sectors of SADC. Accordingly, the SADC PF Standing Committees and Programmes would hence forth focus on:

i) Democratisation, Governance & Human Rights;

ii) Gender Equality, Women Advancement and Youth Development;

iii) Trade, Industry, Finance and Infrastructure;

iv) Food, Agriculture & Natural Resources; and

v) Human & Social Development & Special Programmes.

The Regional Women Parliamentary Caucus has been transformed into an Organ of the Forum focusing on lobbying and advocacy on gender equality and empowerment of women in line with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

10. Hon. Anne S. Makinda, MP, Speaker of the National Assembly of Tanzania welcomed the delegates to the tourist city of Arusha. Further noting that the Parliament of Tanzania was a founding Member of SADC PF, Hon. Makinda affirmed the Parliament of Tanzania's commitment to SADC PF's vision of being transformed into a Regional Parliament.

11. Officially opening the 34th Plenary Assembly Session, the Vice-President of the United Republic of Tanzania, H.E. Dr. Mohammed Gharib Bilal, welcomed the theme of the 34th Plenary Assembly Session, namely that, " Benchmarking the Conduct and Assessment of Elections in Southern Africa," adding that credible elections were an important pillar for sustainable democracy. He, therefore, called for the adoption of best practices and international benchmarks in the management of elections.

12. H.E. Bilal lauded the SADC PF's aspiration to be transformed into a Regional Parliament and pledged the Government of Tanzania's support towards the realisation of the founding objective of the ultimate transformation of SADC PF into a SADC Regional Parliament.

13. Giving his vote of thanks during the official opening ceremony, Hon. Adv. Jacob Francis Mudenda, Speaker of the National Assembly of Zimbabwe, paid tribute to Tanzania's historical role towards liberation of Southern Africa and for hosting the 34th Plenary Assembly Session, which attested to commitment to the ideals of SADC integration.

14. The 34th Plenary Assembly considered and adopted the Benchmarks for Assessing Democratic Elections in Southern Africa the new instrument to guide SADC PF's Election Observation Programme. The Benchmarks complement the Norms and Standards for Elections in SADC Region (2001), and it reinforces Member States' commitments to regional and international human rights obligations. Further, the Benchmarks include a Code of Conduct for SADC PF Election Observers, further strengthening SADC PF's professionalism in Election Observation.

15. Noting the paradox of Africa's high poverty levels in spite of being endowed with abundant natural resources, the 34th Plenary Assembly considered and approved the Barometer for Natural Resources Governance in Southern Africa, which sets the framework for effective oversight of the natural resources sector and in particular, the extractive industry, by Parliaments.

16. In line with its decision to adopt a parliamentary operational framework and to support the implementation capacity of SADC, the 34th Plenary Assembly adopted the revised Constitution and Rules of Procedure.

17. The 34th Plenary Assembly reiterated the need for greater collaboration between the SADC PF and the SADC Secretariat and therefore called for the speedy conclusion of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in order to accelerate the implementation of the SADC Common Agenda.

18. Following consideration and debate on the Standing Committee Reports, the 34th Plenary Assembly resolved to:

18.1 Urge SADC Member States to increase national budgets to health sector, particularly funding to HIV/AIDS from domestic revenues to fill the void left by decreasing external funding. In this regard, priority should be given to the overarching target of reducing HIV/AIDS infections, TB deaths and placing the infected on HIV/AIDS treatment.

18.2 Implore SADC Parliaments to enhance the governance of the natural resources through effective oversight and enactment of legislative frameworks that guarantee local ownership, revenue sharing mechanisms, protection of the environment, transparency and accountability in contract negotiations as well as corporate social responsibility.

18.3 Commit to advance parliamentary capacity at national and regional levels as a means to ensure greater citizen representation, law making and oversight.

18.4 Reiterate the need for continued enhancement of inter-parliamentary cooperation as a means to promote mutual learning in keeping with the new parliamentary operational framework.

18.5 Commend the Government and the People of Zimbabwe for holding elections that were judged to be peaceful, credible, free and fair by the SADC PF, SADC and Africa Union (AU), on 31 July 2013 under the new Constitution which was developed and adopted by the Government of National Unity that was formed under the SADC-mediated and AU guaranteed Global Political Agreement, thereby confirming the practical plausibility of the philosophy of African solutions to African challenges;

18.6 Praise the Government and the People of Swaziland for the peaceful manner in which the 20 September 2013 National Elections were held and urge them to continue engaging in dialogue on the issues of gender equality and multi-party democracy to further strengthen political participation and the full enjoyment of related rights;

18.7 Wish SADC Member States holding elections in 2014, namely Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Namibia, peaceful and credible elections.

18.8 Urge Member States to prioritise the elimination of all forms of impediments to gender equality and women advancement, through the review of electoral systems and the constitutional and legislative frameworks. This could particularly be attained through, among other things, the implementation of the 50:50 gender representation by 2015, as espoused in the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

19. In recognition of the contributions of Dr. Esau Chiviya, the Secretary General of SADC PF, the 34th Plenary Assembly resolved to renew his contract for another five-year term commencing July 2014.

20. The 34th Plenary Assembly congratulated Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax on her appointment as the Executive Secretary of SADC and pledged the Forum's support.

21. The 34th Plenary Assembly adopted an official flag for SADC PF.

22. The 34th Plenary Assembly Session noted with deep concern the ongoing conflict in some parts of the DRC which has caused the suffering and death of innocent civilians. In this regard, the Plenary Assembly expressed its appreciation for the support and efforts by SADC, AU and the international community towards ending the conflict. SADC PF reiterated its support for a peaceful end to the conflict.

23. The 35th Plenary Assembly Session will be hosted by the National Assembly of Mauritius in the Republic of Mauritius in June 2014.

24. Through the Speaker Hon. Makinda, the 34th Plenary Assembly expressed its profound gratitude to the People, the Government and the Parliament of the United Republic of Tanzania, for the warm hospitality and for all the arrangements which made the 34th Plenary Assembly Session a resounding success.

Done at Arusha, Tanzania on 22nd of October 2013.

46th SADC PF Plenary Assembly

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