MCEBO DLAMINI: The Pan-African Parliament must be free from imperial influence
The Pan-African Parliament offers great potential to give the continent the direction it must take in order to change the lives of her people for the better. But equally, the parliament could also be rendered a useless institution that wastes funds and contributes nothing to the people.
It is therefore quite important to support and, where necessary, critique this institution that has been created to "ensure full participation of African peoples in the economic development and integration of the continent". To do this, the parliament needs leadership who is committed to providing services to the people instead of advancing their own needs. Is this possible where the majority of the leaders sitting in that parliament have failed to assist the people in their own countries?
It is no secret that many of the member states are riddled with corruption, which has been one of the main stumbling blocks in the development of African countries. The election structure of the representatives must be cognisant of this and not reuse the same people who have been plunging the resources of their own countries.
So, perhaps instead of the legislature of each country sending delegates to sit in the Parliament, a system of universal suffrage must be considered. This will give the people direct access to vote for who they want to be represented by. The ability to do this will also signal that the always spoken of idea of the ‘United States of Africa’ is not just some utopia, but an actual possibility.
In recent weeks the Pan-African Parliament has been in the news over the chaos that broke down as a result of the debate on rotational leadership. There were some countries opposed to the rotating of leadership which was proposed by the Southern African caucus. There seems to be no logical reason to oppose this proposal which will guarantee that each and every constituency is represented. It will ensure that no regions dominate the leadership because of their financial muscle. The idea of rotational leadership could really engender a truly democratic leadership. The rejection of it seems to be nothing but a gesture by power mongers who want to always see power centralised in a single sect. The parliament must not allow this tendency that has destroyed many African countries to find expression in the parliament.
But having said all of this, we must not pretend as if parliamentary power is the solution to our problems. In fact, parliaments have often failed to address many structural problems that face African countries. In many instances, parliament ends up being used by imperialists and capitalists for their own personal gain.
How will we ensure that the Pan-African Parliament is free from imperial influence? This will not be easy if there is no anchoring ideology that is shared among those in parliament. It will also not be easy if you have a leadership that is not committed to that ideology.
Of course, pan-Africanism the ideology must not be a liberal strand. It must be clear as a ideology that wants to free each and every grain of Africa from the vestiges of slavery, colonialism and apartheid. It must be committed to the uprooting of claws of imperil powers that continue to take from this continent without any intention to give back. The parliament must believe in Africa and its people’s ability to create their solutions for the problems that they face.
The Pan-African Parliament could be a vehicle to creating a united Africa that will compete on the global stage as an equal and not a subordinate.
Mcebo Dlamini is a former leader of student protests at Wits University.