The Speaker of the National Assembly (NA), Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, delivered a compelling speech yesterday at the 53rd Plenary Assembly of the South African Development Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) in Arusha, Tanzania. Ms Mapisa-Nqakula highlighted South Africa’s unwavering commitment to championing peace and stability in the South African Development Community (SADC) region and the continent as a whole. She emphasized the crucial role played by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in peacekeeping efforts.
The theme of this year’s assembly, “The Role of Parliaments in Strengthening Legislative Frameworks for Peace and Security in the SADC region,” resonated with Ms Mapisa-Nqakula’s address. She underscored the significance of the SANDF’s involvement in peacekeeping missions across the continent. According to her, the President of South Africa has exclusive authority to deploy SANDF personnel for domestic or international operations, with the obligation to inform Parliament about such deployments.
Ms Mapisa-Nqakula informed the assembly that President Cyril Ramaphosa had sent a letter on 6 April 2023, notifying Parliament about the extension of the employment of 1,495 SANDF members in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This deployment, from 16 April 2023 until 15 April 2024, demonstrates South Africa’s steadfast commitment to upholding peace and security in the SADC region.
During her speech, Ms Mapisa-Nqakula also discussed the transformation of the SADC PF into a regional Parliament. South Africa remains dedicated to regional integration, and President Ramaphosa signed the SADC Agreement Amending the Treaty in January 2023, which recognizes the SADC Parliament as an institution. She called upon other parliaments to follow suit and expressed optimism that the necessary signatures for the Amendment Treaty would soon be obtained.
Regarding gender equality, Ms Mapisa-Nqakula highlighted South Africa’s progress in enacting the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. The National Assembly approved the Agreement Amending the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development on June 6, 2023, as per section 231(2) of the Constitution. This agreement places an obligation on State Parties to enact appropriate measures ensuring equal rights for women and men. South Africa is now obligated to develop and strengthen laws, policies, and programs to achieve gender equality in decision-making positions across various sectors.
Child marriage and gender-based violence were also addressed during the assembly. In March 2022, the Department of Home Affairs released the “White Paper on Marriages in South Africa,” which recommends interventions to make child marriage illegal. Additionally, the South African Law Reform Commission proposed the enactment of a draft Prohibition of Forced Marriage and Regulation of Related Matters Bill, which criminalizes forced and child marriage and allows victims to apply for a forced marriage protection order. These legislative efforts reflect South Africa’s commitment to its constitutional and international human rights commitments.
The Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee advocated for measures to attract local investors, such as renewable energy tax rebates. Ms Mapisa-Nqakula acknowledged the country’s struggle with load-shedding and highlighted the government’s new policy measures to increase the share of renewable energy in the country’s energy mix and alleviate strain on the grid. Proposed measures include an enhanced renewable energy tax incentive, allowing businesses to claim a 125% tax deduction for capital expenditure on any renewable energy project, and a rooftop solar tax incentive, offering individuals a 25% tax rebate on the cost of new solar PV panels.
Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula concluded her address by commending thegovernment’s efforts to strengthen the electricity grids and promote renewable energy generation. She assured the assembly that Parliament would use its legislative tools and power to oversee the successful implementation of these initiatives.
The 53rd Plenary Assembly, which commenced on the second day in Arusha, Tanzania, is set to continue until Friday, 07 July 2023. The agenda for the assembly includes the consideration of the Standing Committee Reports on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment; Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources; Democratisation, Governance and Human Rights, as well as the Report of the Regional Women’s Parliamentary Caucus.
As the apex parliamentary body in the SADC region, the SADC Parliamentary Forum plays a crucial role in fostering a coordinated and collaborative approach among parliaments. Its primary objective is to build the necessary capacity for parliamentarians and relevant parliamentary committees to effectively utilize their law-making and oversight mandate in implementing resolutions adopted during plenary sittings.
South Africa’s commitment to peace, stability, gender equality, and renewable energy demonstrates its dedication to the overall development and prosperity of the SADC region. The 53rd Plenary Assembly serves as a platform for collaboration and dialogue, enabling member states to work collectively towards a more prosperous and harmonious future.