The Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Thandi Modise, has called for an end to all forms of discrimination in Africa and advocated for united efforts to rebuild the continent’s economy following devastation wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking at the official opening of the Fourth Ordinary Session of the fifth Parliament of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) in Midrand yesterday, Ms Modise said it was very unfortunate that the continent was still divided along ethnic, religious, gender and languages lines of the former colonisers.

“Our interests should be about building the African economy, The languages of the former colonisers must not be allowed to continue dividing us. We need to think as Africans and treat each other as brothers and sisters,” she said.

Ms Modise also urged Members of the PAP to fight against ethnic discrimination, gender-based discrimination and support the fight against gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF). She also spoke against the displacement of people and human trafficking caused by instability in some parts of the continent.

She dismissed the impression that South Africa was xenophobic against fellow Africans, saying that South Africa ensures that nobody is treated differently because of their nationality. “We will not tolerate xenophobia in our country, but we will also not tolerate criminality within our borders, whether by South Africans or by foreign nationals,” she said.

Ms Molise’s call for African unity was supported by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC)’s Ambassador to South Africa Mr Bene M’poko, who is also the Dean of African Ambassadors. “We need to unite as Africans and abandon some of our habits, like this thing of Anglophone and Francophone, which belong in the past, does not have to divide us. We need to act and talk like one people. We are here to solve problems and challenges facing our continent,” said Ambassador M’poko.

Delivering the welcome message to the PAP on behalf of South Africa, the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, said South Africa has provided support to the PAP and will continue doing so in line with the host country agreements.

She warned that the socio-economic impact of coronavirus in the continent will be felt for quite some time, and she called on countries to build research and invest in higher education in order to build responses to possible future pandemics. “There will be other pandemics in the future, it’s a pattern of life, we will have to be ready as a continent,” said Minister Pandor.

The theme for the PAP session echoes that of the African Union for 2021: “Year of the Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want”. Addressing the session as a guest of honour, the President of the Republic of Ghana, Mr Nana Akufo-Addo, said nothing defines a continent more than its arts, culture and heritage. He also called on African countries not to abandon their cultures and heritage as they modernise.

“Modernisation is seen as synonymous with westernisation, but we can modernise in our own way, like Japan which is highly modernised but not westernised. The Africa we want will not be realised if we turn our backs on our arts, culture and heritage,” said President Akufo-Addo.

He encouraged African countries to start knowing more about each other, to learn from each other and look out for each other. “We have what it takes to transform our economies, acting together we will boost our capacity to succeed,” he added.

The Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces Chairperson, Mr Amos Masondo, is the leader of the parliamentary delegation to the PAP. Other delegates include the Chief Whip of the Majority Party in the National Assembly, Ms Penny Majodina, Dr Mathole Motshekga, Mr Julius S Malema who is the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters and the Democratic Alliance’s Mr TR Majola.

Speaker Modise is a former member of the PAP and was specially invited to make opening remarks, together with Dr Pandor, on behalf of South Africa as a host country.

Among the issues discussed at the session are various reports, including the Report by the Permanent Committees on the Covid-19 pandemic in Africa; the activity Report of the PAP; the Report of the Ad hoc Committee on the election of the President of the Pan-African Parliament; and Committee Meetings and Meeting of the Network of Women Parliamentarians.

Sakhile Mokoena

 25 May 2021