Southern Africa: Madagascar Joins SADC PF

16 December 2019

Swakopmund — The island nation of Madagascar became the 15th SADC Member State to join the SADC Parliamentary Forum on Saturday, torching off scenes of jubilation.

The SADC region's lawmakers unanimously passed a motion for Madagascar's admission to the regional interparliamentary body in Swakopmund, Namibia during the SADC PF 46th Plenary Assembly Session.

The Speaker of the National Assembly of Seychelles, Nicholas Prea, moved an impassioned motion to successfully urge the Plenary Assembly Session, which is the highest decision-making body of the Forum, to unanimously admit Madagascar and continue with efforts to bring the Union of Comoros on board as well.

In 2009 the Southern African Development Community (SADC) suspended Madagascar as a member following an unconstitutional change of government in that country. SADC mediation, which former Mozambican President Joaquim Alberto Chissano spearheaded, culminated in elections and a return to constitutionalism.

Following successful elections which SADC PF and other bodies observed, the Extraordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government lifted the suspension on Madagascar in 2014 and invited the country to immediately resume participation in all SADC activities.

Prea led efforts by the National Assembly of Seychelles to bring Madagascar at the request of the 43rd Plenary Assembly Session of SADC PF.

On Saturday, Prea argued that given that Article 7 of the SADC PF Constitution stipulates that membership to SADC PF is open to national parliaments whose countries are members of SADC, the National Assembly of Madagascar was eligible to join the Forum since Madagascar had been readmitted to SADC.

Zimbabwe, through her Speaker of Parliament, Advocate Jacob Francis Mudenda, welcomed the admission of Madagascar as a logical and significant step towards deeper regional integration.

"I am sure I speak for all of us when I affirm that this is a joyous and historic occasion worthy of celebration. Words alone cannot express the gratitude that we owe to Hon. Speaker Nicholas Prea for the compelling effort that he put into ensuring that this day becomes a lived reality," Mudenda said.

He thanked the Parliament of Madagascar - which was never a member of SADC PF although it was a member of SADC - for agreeing to join the Forum "and in so doing, consenting to move forward together as we strive for deeper regional cooperation and integration on the basis of equity and mutual benefit and strengthened regional solidarity which must ride on the pedestal of parliamentary democracy".

Mudenda said the admission of the National Assembly of Madagascar to SADC PF was "a bold declaration of our seriousness in pursuit of our objective of regional integration".

He cited the SADC Declaration and Treaty establishing the SADC Summit which states: "Regional integration will continue to be a pipe dream unless the peoples of the region are themselves its active agents. Measures must, therefore, be taken and appropriate mechanisms and institutional framework put in place, to involve all the people of the region in the process of regional integration."

Mudenda said with an appropriate institutional framework in the SADC Parliamentary Forum made up of the people's elected representatives who stand for the hopes and aspirations of the people now in place, what remained was to ensure that all the people of the region are involved in the integration process.

"The admission of Madagascar is a positive step in this direction which we must celebrate. However, we should remain mindful that we dare not rest until the Union of Comoros is part of the SADC family," he said to applause.

Mudenda quipped that the happiness that engulfed the entire SADC PF family could perhaps only be rivalled by the excitement that enveloped the father of the prodigal son as recorded in Luke 15 verse 11-32.

"When the prodigal son returned, the father hosted a feast like no other to demonstrate his happiness that an integral missing part of the family jigsaw had returned to take its rightful place in the family. We were incomplete without Madagascar and with their admission, the SADC PF engine is close to full functionality."

United Republic of Tanzania lawmaker Ally Abdullah Ally Saleh said having Madagascar in the fold marked an "important and historical" day for SADC.

"We missed them as a family. We are waiting for the Comoros," he added.

Noting that Madagascar was a soccer powerhouse within southern Africa, Saleh expressed optimism that the quality of soccer in the region would improve with their inclusion. He, however, advised the new SADC PF family member to quickly play catch-up, saying a lot had happened while Madagascar was not on board.

In an interview, Speaker of the National Assembly of Namibia and host of the SADC PF, Professor Peter Katjavivi, said the admission of Madagascar at a time when the SADC PF is working towards transforming into a SADC Regional Parliament was timely and significant.

"The admission of Madagascar also augurs well with the SADC regional agenda. The citizens of Madagascar now have an opportunity to input into SADC processes through their elected representatives," he said.

Katjavivi said, also, that Madagascar's coming on board was an endorsement and proof that the country appreciates the work and value of SADC PF.

SADC PF Secretary General Boemo Sekgoma expressed optimism that the citizens of Madagascar would be the ultimate beneficiaries from this development.

"It means that SADC PF programmes will extend to the citizens of Madagascar," Sekgoma said.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) also welcomed Madagascar, saying the more the merrier.

Rakotomalala Lucien, who led a five-member delegation from Madagascar to the 46th SADC Plenary Assembly Session, said being part of the Forum was "a great privilege".

"It is a chance for our country to fight poverty and diseases and to grow culturally, socially and politically," he said in an interview.

He pledged the National Assembly of Madagascar's active participation in the activities of the Forum.

Heads of state and government approved the establishment of SADC PF in 1997 with the goal of transforming it into a regional parliamentary framework for dialogue on issues of regional interest and concern.

By Moses Magadza

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