Parliament takes bold move by ratifying African Union Act

Cape Town- South Africa (PANA) -- South Africa has actively participated in various multilateral summits and meetings, which have sown the seeds of the idea of a common, united African Union.
These seeds were first planted after the signing of the Abuja Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (AEC) in June 1991.
The Abuja Treaty makes provision for full economic and social integration on the African continent, in a gradual process, in six stages.
Last November, the South African government said that the idea of Pan African Parliament is complementary to President Thabo Mbeki's campaign to promote the principles of African Renaissance.
The South African Parliament in February ratified the Constitutive Act for the African Union.
This was preceded by a debate in House on the matter in October 2000 year where most parties voiced their support for the ratification.
In her address to Members of Parliament, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr.
Frene Ginwala said the development and strengthening of African unity needs to go hand in hand with the building of institutions.
"In doing so we will have to recognise and take account of the racial, ethnic, religious, political, linguistic and cultural diversity of our continent, the differing colonial experiences and the levels of political and economic development," she said.
On the question of unity with African countries, Ginwala said no people have more reason to appreciate the value of African unity than South Africans.
"The end of apartheid and the establishment of this democratic Parliament in 1994 came about through the support given to our struggle by African countries, including the pressure exerted by a united Africa on those who continued to support the apartheid regime for so long," she added.
In March, Mbeki led a South African delegation to the 5th Extraordinary Summit of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African Unity.
The summit adopted the Sirte Declaration, which calls for an acceleration of the stages implementing the African Economic Community and the establishment of a Pan African Parliament to "provide a common platform for our peoples and their grassroots organisations to be more involved in discussions and decision making on the problems and challenges facing the African continent".
The treaty, loosely modelled on the economic and politic success of the European Union, was endorsed unanimously by 36 heads of state attending the annual summit in Lome in July 2000.
The African Union would replace the 37-year-old OAU, which spearheaded the independence struggle of several African countries and led the ideological battle against South Africa's former minority-white regime.
However, it often failed to resolve wars and civil conflicts dividing the continent.
The South African government believes the objectives of the Pan African Parliament, which include the promotion of democracy and good governance on the continent, are in keeping with the overall objectives of promoting the principles of the African Renaissance.
"In keeping with the spirit of the Sirte Declaration, which aimed at effectively addressing the new social, political and economic realities in Africa; eliminating the scourges of conflicts and poverty on the Continent, the South African government welcomes the opportunity to host the Pan African Parliament Meeting," said Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa.
He said the establishment of the Pan African Parliament is a unique step and illustrates a bold, new awakening for the African continent.

20 april 2001 08:41:00

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