Senator Chief Fortune Charumbira has been elected the new president of the continental legislature, the Pan African Parliament (PAP).
Charumbira, who is the president of the Chiefs Council, became the first person from the Southern African region to be voted PAP president.
He garnered 161 votes from a possible total of 203 votes during elections held at a session of the continental legislative body in Midrand, South Africa on Wednesday.
There were 31 abstentions and 11 spoilt votes.
In his victory speech, Chief Charumbira said there was an urgent need to transform PAP so that it properly discharges its mandate. He said:
We need to accept this fact and my presidency will seek to deepen the understanding as to why PAP has not performed, and I will work with all of you.
I stand here to declare that I am the right candidate to lead the process of transformation of the Pan African Parliament.
I have been acting president of this Parliament before, for three months last year. I have (also) been vice president.
I promise I will lead with excellence. I chaired a couple of committees of this Parliament.
PAP needs to be reformed, there are a lot of issues affecting MPs.
Chief Charumbira was SADC’s sole candidate for the PAP elections after the African Union capitulated to a demand by the Southern African caucus to allow them to field a candidate as part of the principle of rotation enshrined in the PAP constitutive Act.
The traditional leader is, however, not without controversy back home. In 2018, the High Court ruled that Charumbira’s comments publicly supporting ZANU PF were unconstitutional as chiefs are required to be neutral, reported ZimLive.
A judge ordered him to withdraw the comments, but he has not done so.
Speaking ahead of the PAP vote, Harare-based lawyer Obey Shava said supporting Charumbira would be endorsing his disrespect for the law. Shava said:
Chief Charumbira doesn’t respect Zimbabwe’s constitution and the courts. Charumbira publicly announced that chiefs have always been supporting Zanu PF and declared their continued support for it. This was contrary to section 280(2) of the constitution.
On 14 May 2018, the High Court declared that the partisan comments by Chief Charumbira supporting Zanu PF were unconstitutional and ordered that they be retracted within 14 days.
Charumbira tried to have the judgement rescinded but on June 19, 2019, the High Court stood its ground and dismissed his application. Still, he remained in defiance.
Charumbira has defied everyone, the law and the institutions which support democracy in Zimbabwe.
Supporting him would be endorsing his disrespect for the law, the constitution and the courts.
A local lawbreaker can’t be celebrated abroad. It spells doom for the future of democracy in SADC.