Maputo — Mozambican President Armando Guebuza on Friday challenged members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum to produce laws "that meet the legitimate expectations of our citizens".
He was speaking at the opening session of the 31st Plenary Assembly of the Forum. Delegations are present from parliaments of 13 of the 15 SADC member states. Madagascar remains suspended from SADC because of the 2009 coup that overthrew the elected president, Marc Ravalomanana, while Seychelles sent apologies, saying its delegation could not attend "for reasons beyond our control".
Guebuza said he hoped the parliamentarians would discuss the production of legislation on such issues as gender and development, the scourge of HIV/AIDS and the fight against corruption.
He also urged the meeting to debate the role of parliaments in the regional integration of southern Africa, since integration should not be seen as occurring only in the social and economic spheres - it must also have a legal and institutional component.
He warned that national legislation should not be in contradiction with SADC protocols. "We have to deal with the imperative of harmonizing national legal instruments with the legal instruments we approve at SADC level", he stressed.
A further imperative, Guebuza added, was "to establish an administrative and institutional framework that allows the observation and application of the SADC common agenda, in a structured and harmonised way".
Guebuza claimed that all SADC countries are committed "to the maintenance of peace and to creating conditions for the full exercise of the rights of citizenship". He was convinced that SADC is advancing along "a socially sustainable and politically secure path".
The chairperson of the Forum, Lovemore Moyo, speaker of the Zimbabwean parliament, warned of the attempts by governments to dominate the state machinery and to ignore the constitutional mandate of national parliaments.
Among the problems weakening parliaments in SADC countries, he added, were inadequate allocation of financial resources to parliaments, poor control over the national budget, insufficient funding to train parliamentarians and imbalances in observing the separation of powers.
"What can be done to strengthen parliamentary democracy as part of our strategy for good governance?", he asked. "What can be done to make our parliaments truly democratic institutions representing the people who elected them".
Moyo insisted that the separation of powers must be respected, and that parliaments must have some degree of independence in determining their budgetary requirements.
The SADC Parliamentary Forum is an autonomous institution set up in 1997. Its ambition is that it will eventually be transformed into a regional parliament.