The Prospect of SADC-Parliamentary Forum Transformation into a Regional Parliament: Too Big too Soon?
Authors Dennis U Zaire
Affiliations: Programme Officer, Konrad Adenauer Foundation – Namibia & Angola Office
Source: SADC Law Journal, The, 2013, p. 238 – 258
The Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) [fn1], a regional consultative forum, has embarked on a transformation process to become a fully functioning regional parliament, to be called the SADC Parliament. [fn2] The transformation is necessitated by the need to meet modern demands and keep pace with the ever-changing world. As a regional parliament, the SADC-PF would contribute to regional matters and influence national parliaments more effectively on regional issues than is currently the case. At the moment the SADC does not have a fully-fledged regional parliament like the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) of the East African Community (EAC) or the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament. Instead, it has a Parliamentary Forum that has no legislative powers and limited influence in the region. A regional parliament will also help bring SADC closer to the people and vice versa [fn3] through the provision of a platform for the participation of the people through law making and outreach. However, the road to the realisation of that goal is filled with uncertainties and more questions than answers. Is the time right for the establishment of a regional parliament? In fact, does the southern African region need a regional parliament or is the idea of SADC Parliament ill-conceived? [fn4] Does the SADC have the capacity, in terms of financial, as well as human resources to accommodate a regional parliament, and if so, where will it be based [fn5] and what would be its relationship with the member’s national Parliaments? The question beckons what value the SADC Parliament will bring to the ordinary citizen. With these questions in mind, it is the objective of this paper to look closely at the idea of SADC Parliament while discussing the issues involved in the formation of the SADC Parliament. The article will, therefore, briefly reflect on the achievements of the SADC-PF over the last fifteen years (1997—2012), looking at the current challenges faced by the institution and the future opportunities that await the institution. It will also, where appropriate, refer to other regional parliamentary structures, to help in analysing whether the idea of a SADC Parliament is fitting for the region. footnote 1: Founded on 8th September 1997, in Blantyre, Malawi. footnote 2: SADC-PF preamble states: We, the representative of the people of the Southern African Development Community, having solemnly resolved to constitute a Consultative Parliamentary Assembly to be known as the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum with a view to developing into a regional parliamentary structure, for the purpose of strengthening the capacity of the Southern African Development Community by involving parliamentarians of members states in its activities. footnote 3: Article 23 (1) of the SADC Treaty (1992) states: ‘in pursuance of the objectives of this treaty, SADC shall seek to involve fully, the people of the region and Non-governmental organizations in the process of regional integration’. footnote 4: Originally the SADC Treaty did not provide for a regional parliamentary structure. Hence, SADC-PF was created under article 9(2) and not under article 9(1) of the SADC treaty. footnote 5: Currently the SADC-PF is hosted by Namibia. A publication by the SADC-PF refers to the seat of the SADC Regional Parliament to be determined by the SADC Heads of State and Government. See SADC-PF consolidated document, ‘Towards the Establishment of a SADC Parliament’, unpublished at page 7.