Jean-Jacques Cornish

South Africa want to continue hosting the Pan African Parliament

by Jean-Jacques Cornish

Finally, 12 years after its inception, Africa’s continental legislature provides the the delicious introduction that has had punsters slavering: Things are going from bad to wors at the PAP.

South Africans have been asking since 2004 what their government was thinking bringing the Pan African Parliament here.

The body is one of the nine organs of the African Union.

The Parliament is intended as a platform for people from all African states to be involved in discussions and decision-making on the problems and challenges facing the continent.

In recent  years, the PA has played an advisory role to the African Union summit on a wide array of issues affecting the continent.

These include climate change and the Post-2015 developmental Agenda.

Euphemistic spin aside, the PAP is a toothless talk shop.

It has had moments of influence, such as when members observed elections and took an independent line on what they saw or when they spoke their minds about human rights excesses in Zimbabwe.

However they were quickly brought to heel by the AU summit that keeps it on a very tight financial leash.

Since nothing said in the chamber at their Midrand Headquarters results in any kind of action, the PAP is not regarded as a worthy of coverage by the media in its host country.

As one of the few reporters who keep an eye on events there, I am frequently the only journalist in the house.

This means advertised briefings are not held, and I am required to speak one-on-one with the president or other participants in a debate.

It happened again when MPs expressed their anger and fear following an attack on colleagues that left one them hospitalized with a bullet wound in her thigh.

They were engaged in a committee meeting that was not empowered to adopt any motion.

This has to wait until their next plenary meeting in October which is scheduled for the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheikh.

A number of MPs asked if their safety could be guaranteed there.

An Egyptian MP insisted that they would be in the safest place in the world.

The bulk of MPs in the debate were saying the PAP should relocate to a safer venue if the South African hosts could not guarantee their security.

They pointed out that South Africa’s agreement with the African Union to host the PAP expired in 2009.

They called for a new agreement to spell out the security measures South Africa  was prepared to offer.

The MPs were unhappy with the assurance from  South African Police Service General General Nkuna that they should get on with business because their security had become his preoccupation.

They believed they were due an unconditional apology from foreign affairs minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane for the spate of five attacks in recent months against MPs.

One participant went so far as to suggest the police were in cahoots with the criminals attacking MPs.

PAP president Roger Nkoda Ndang attempted to placate MPs with an assurance that President Jacob Zuma had promised him an appointment to discuss the security concerns.

South African officials are adamant that Pretoria wishes to continue hosting the PAP.

A plot of land has been identified in the capital on which to build a permanent headquarters.

Meanwhile, MPs we’re advised by a colleague not to change large sums of money when they landed at OR Tambo airport because this makes them targets for robbers who are active there.


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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.