The Pan African Parliament is the legislative body of the African Union. It was established for the purpose of oversight and advisory within the AU and its member states. Each member state selects a representative to occupy a seat and the body is headed by a president elected by these representatives. Over the last few years, there have been many critiques about the role and accomplishments of this body and whether anything has been accomplished especially in high conflict regions in Africa. The Pan African Parliament has its head offices in South Africa currently and it costs the South African government 250 million rands every time members convene. In the last few months, differences have come up that led to the humiliating and highly inappropriate behavior displayed across African mainstream media. Here is why :

Since its inception, the Pan African Parliament selects its President through an electoral process where all the representatives vote. It is important to note that a majority of PAP representatives are from West Africa because it is the largest region with several countries. As a result, the PAP has only ever been headed by West African representatives save for Fortune Charumbira from Zimbabwe. Hand in hand with the scrutiny about how the body has not had any meaningful accomplishments since its inception, several accusations from respected leaders have surfaced that there have been discreet collaboration by West African nations to preserve the trend of West African presidency for various reasons, i.e., diplomatic clout, gateways to international policy-making spaces and financial benefit. When the PAP met in June 2021, representatives of Southern African countries challenged the legitimacy of the electoral process and proposed the presidency be changed to a rotational basis where all countries have an opportunity to head the body. After the conflict arose and West African representatives rejected this change, an attempt was made to delay the election through verbal exchange, which quickly turned into physical violence. Africa watched from their homes as they learned for the first time about the existence of this legislative body that takes from their tax payments exchange fists and kicks on live television.

The biggest highlight of the war-like scenario was that Pemmy Majodina, the PAP representative of South Africa was physically assaulted by Djibril War from Senegal. So while trying to navigate the conflict that unraveled relating to corruption culture and electoral processes, questions of how safe women are in male-dominated policy-making spaces have also arisen. This display of violence is not the first time African women leaders have been undermined and abused. Over the last year Tanzanian member of parliament was removed from a session for what was said to be inappropriate dressing because she wore pants, Zimbabwean members of parliament have been expected and found kneeling before their male counterparts in greetings.

So the simple existence of the Pan African Parliament has given citizens of the continent a lot to think about and even more to discuss

What is the role of the Pan African Parliament?

Can the goals of the Pan African Parliament be achieved without the cost of over US$17 million dollars?

Has the electoral process of the Pan African been fair ?

Has the Pan African Parliament inherited a culture of marginalizing women leaders like most parliaments in Africa ?

Thumbnail Photo from the Tinatswe’s personal archive