PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA – Chaos erupted on Tuesday at the Pan African Parliament in South Africa’s capital Pretoria as continental lawmakers were set to vote for parliamentary president, according to a South Sudanese delegate at the parliament.
Mabior Ring Lual, one of the five lawmakers appointed by South Sudan to the Pan African Parliament says the chaos erupted following repeated disruption from South African lawmakers led by Julius Malema whose bodyguards ran away with a ballot box.
This, Lual said, led to the postponement of the election blaming South African and Zimbabwean lawmakers who only want their representative to be voted as president of the parliament, but are outnumbered by their counterparts from East and West Africa.
“The Election of Pan-African Parliament (PAP) was postponed yesterday because Southern Africa caucus and particularly South Africa and Zimbabwe’s MPs didn’t want election to go on,” Lual said.
“Julius Malema’s bodyguard ran away with ballot box yesterday. They repeated the same chaos today and plenary was suspended until further notice. They want their candidate elected unopposed,” he added.
For his part, Pan African Parliament Secretariat spokesperson Jeffrey Onganga confirmed the suspension. He said the suspension is indefinite and a date would be confirmed at a later stage.
The session was supposed to run from 21 May to 4 June.
The delay is a win for the southern African caucus who refused to go ahead with the vote unless the process was reformed to a rotational presidency.
Until now, the position has been decided by the number of votes attained. The president heads up the PAP’s bureau, which is responsible for the management and administration of the continental parliament. The bureau consists of four vice-presidents, whose seniority is decided by the number of votes attained.
The southern African caucus has refused to go ahead with the vote, calling instead for the African Union (AU) to intervene in the dispute. At the centre of Tuesday’s chaos was a letter, believed to be from the AU and sent to the PAP clerk, supporting the call for rotation. Delegates from West and East Africa disputed the validity of the letter.
Southern African delegates – including ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina, veteran ANC politician Amos Masondo and EFF leader Julius Malema – said their call for rotation was in line with the AU’s own regulation. They said it would ensure fairness and greater transparency.
The southern Africans are outnumbered by their counterparts in West and East Africa, who are each backing a candidate for the presidency. The PAP has 229 members, with national parliaments from each member state allowed to send up to five MPs.
The West and East African caucuses accuse acting president Chief Fortune Charumbira of using the delay to hold onto power. Charumbira, from Zimbabwe, is the southern African caucus’ presidential candidate.
A member of the Malian delegation told News24 the postponement had not been communicated to them, but conceded they could not see how the vote could go ahead on Wednesday after the mayhem of the last two days.
Mali’s Haidara Aichata Cisse is one of three presidential candidates. During the parliamentary shouting match, MPs raised Mali’s domestic politics, saying a military coup in that country last week should preclude it from participating in the AU.
Albino Mathom Ayuel Aboug from South Sudan is the preferred candidate from the East African bloc.
After physical altercations and heated disputes, the PAP has called off its presidential election.
The current bureau’s mandate expired in May. The PAP is yet to comment on how this will affect the functioning of the organisation until the next vote.