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Parliament, Tuesday, 07 June 2022 – The Southern Africa Subregion of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Africa Region, led by National Assembly Deputy Speaker, Mr Lechesa Tsenoli, has called on the 52nd CPA Africa Region Conference to strongly register its displeasure at the United Kingdom’s hesitancy to legislate the change of the association’s corporate status into an international organisation.

Led by Mr Tsenoli, who sits in the CPA Africa Region Executive Committee, the Southern Africa Subregion consisting of Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and its nine provincial legislatures, convened on Monday to consolidate its position on the issue of the CPA’s corporate status.

Since the official commencement of the Conference on Monday in Freetown, Sierra Leone, the question of the organisation’s official status has taken centre stage.

“In essence, this Africa Region Conference here in Sierra Leone is also in preparation for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association International Conference in Canada. In those preparations, the central issue is the change of status from a charity organisation into an internationally recognised organisation, so that we may be granted an observer status in the United Nations. Currently we can’t be allowed, because we are effectively registered as a charity organisation”, said Mr Tsenoli.

Currently, the CPA is only registered as a charity organisation in the United Kingdom and has no diplomatic status or recognition internationally. Only the British Parliament can legislate the organisation’s change of corporate status. However, the reading of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Bill in the British House of Lords has prorogued and the Bill will not make further progress.

“If the people inside the Parliament of the United Kingdom are not persuaded, it is not going to happen. We must find several ways to communicate our displeasure, disagreement and rejection of the current status of the CPA so that it is changed into something worthwhile. We will not break ranks with the rest of the African continent on this campaign. We intend to stay in until we succeed in changing this status”, he said.

Mr Tsenoli says the current status of the CPA is unacceptable as it disadvantages Africa and its allies. His sentiments were also echoed by the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) Steering Committee who strongly lobbied for Africans to take up vacant Executive Positions in the CPA International to be contested in the upcoming International Conference in Canada.

“In the event that the organisation collapses, the money can only be used in the United Kingdom, which is unacceptable. Also importantly, I think the (CPA) Africa Region contributes close to sixty percent of the budget of the CPA, and these monies come from our Parliaments and we have authority to draw on it to undertake programmes in our own branches of the CPA across the board, including gender equality, pursuing the involvement of women in politics, and attending to rural-urban dynamics”, said Mr Tsenoli.

Meanwhile the Secretary General of CPA International, Stephen Twigg, who is also attending the Conference in Freetown, said he agreed that the change of status was an urgent matter and that he would persuade the Executive Committee to pursue it aggressively.

“The rejection of this position has been expressed for over thirty years. So Africa and our allies around the Commonwealth have reached deep levels, and we are communicating that we want this change as in Yesterday”, Mr Tsenoli concluded.

Since the official commencement of the 52nd CPA Africa Region Conference on Monday in Freetown, Sierra Leone, the question of the organisation’s official status has taken centre stage.

The Conference, which concludes on Thursday, is expected to fill vacant positions during the Executive Committee’s Annual General Meeting in preparation for the International Conference to be held in Canada later in August.

“Our approach to the work inside this organisation is what our country regards as its foreign policy – participating in multilateral organisations in order to contribute our own share of ideas and solutions on multilateral problems that affect Parliaments from across the world, and to pursue our own African agenda as the Africa Region”, Mr Tsenoli concluded.

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