Pretoria – Newly elected president of the Pan-African Parliament, Chief Fortune Charumbira, has extended an olive branch to members representing all African nations, pledging to forge unity despite the tough contest and opposition even within the Southern Africa region.
“I want to promise here and now that I will be a leader of everybody. I will have to learn some French, I will have to learn some Arabic, Portuguese and fortunately with regards to Swahili, I already speak Swahili,” said the Zimbabwean senator and traditional leader as he addressed the continental structure in his maiden speech.
“One thing that I want to achieve, apart from the continent seeing that now this parliament is visible, it has clear outputs, is making an impact. The other thing is that I want to fight these divisions based on languages. We have to solve that problem.”
Charumbira assured all members he would be having an open-door policy, saying “whatever you are, whether you are Francophone, my office is yours”.
Meanwhile, the South African Parliament’s delegates to the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), led by National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo, have congratulated the president of the Zimbabwe Council of Chiefs, Chief Fortune Charumbira, on his election as the PAP president.
Senator Charumbira emerged victorious following a protracted battle over the “principle of geographical rotation”, which resulted in the abrupt stopping of the PAP’s 4th Ordinary Session in June last year.
The AU Commission had to intervene and suspend the session as it descended into chaos over the disagreement.
“We would like to congratulate Chief Charumbira on his election and we are looking forward to working with him and providing him with the necessary support to take the Pan-African Parliament to greater heights,” said Masondo.
“We are happy that the process of reconstituting the continental parliament is complete, our focus now is to revive the PAP’s drive for pan-African unity, collective prosperity, and inclusive social and economic development, including regional and continental integration. With Chief Charumbira at the helm, we are confident that these aspirations of the people of the continent will not be a pipe dream,” he said.
Masondo leads the Parliament of South Africa’s delegation, which includes the Chief Whip of the ANC in the National Assembly, Pemmy Majodina, Dr Mathole Motshekga, EFF leader Julius Malema and Thembekile Majola from the official opposition, the DA.
Last year, the elections were abandoned after members in the South African delegation with then Zimbabwean Pan-African parliamentarian Barbara Rwodzi disrupted the presidential election proceedings. The subsequent chaos and violence led to the session being abandoned, leaving the parliamentary body leaderless.
During the proceedings on Tuesday, Zimbabwean legislator Tatenda Mavetera was sworn in as a Pan-African Parliament member, replacing the outspoken Rwodzi, who has since been appointed deputy minister for Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry by Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
On Wednesday, hours before the vote, Malawian parliamentarian and presidential candidate at the PAP, Yeremia Chihana, lambasted South Africa for “endorsing” Charumbira and insisting that he was the right candidate to lead the continental parliament.