Hon. Wavel Ramkalawan (Leader of the Opposition) is currently participating in the Regional Session to Validate the Draft SADC Model Law on Elections to take place in Johannesburg, South Africa. As the Chairperson of the SADC PF Standing Committee on Democratisation. Governance and Human Rights, Hon. Ramkalawan presented the official opening remarks of the Session.
Below are the Official Remarks by Hon. Ramkalawan:
- Josefina Diakite, Vice Chairperson of the SADC PF Standing Committee on Democratisation, Governance and Human Rights;
- Honourable Members of the Standing Committee on Democratisation, Governance and Human Rights;
- Electoral Commissioners and staff of Election Management Bodies representing the Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC Countries (ECF-SADC);
- Representatives of various partner organisations that have worked with the Committee in the development of the SADC Model Law on Elections;
- Officials from the SADC PF Secretariat led by Mr Sheuneni Kurasha, the Programme Manager for Democracy and Governance;
- Our distinguished resource persons, Dr Victor Shale and Advocate Phelex Charamba;
- Distinguished participants;
- Ladies and Gentleman;
I am greatly honoured on behalf of the SADC PF Standing Committee on Democratisation, Governance and Human Rights and indeed on my own behalf to welcome you to this very important meeting to validate the Draft SADC Model Law on Elections.
As I address this meeting I am deeply gratified by the long journey we have travelled together and the tremendous progress we have made since 23 February 2017 when we convened our first consultative meeting on the development of the SADC Model Law on Elections at Southern Sun OR Tambo Hotel here in South Africa.
Honourable Members and Distinguished delegates,
You will recall that when we had our preliminary consultative meeting we welcomed the revision and strengthening of the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections Model Law on Elections. We equally applauded the decision by the SADC PF 39th Plenary Assembly mandating our Committee to partner with stakeholders such as the SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) and the Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC Countries (ECF-SADC) in developing the SADC Model Law on Elections to assist SADC Member States in implementing the electoral principles and obligations stipulated in the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines and other regional and international election instruments.
We also applauded the notable progress that the SADC region was making in advancing democracy and improving electoral integrity. The meeting however, noted with concern the existence of yawning gaps between policy and practice in relation to the conduct of elections in SADC Member States, in particular the fact that regional electoral principles and obligations were yet to be fully incorporated into domestic legislative and policy frameworks governing the conduct of elections.
The consultative meeting thus extensively deliberated upon and established consensus on the rational, content, process and timelines for developing and adopting the SADC Model Law on Elections in order to facilitate the domestication and implementation of the provisions of the revised SADC Model Law on Elections at national level. We also forged an alliance with partner organisations including SEAC, ECF SADC, International IDEA, AU and UNDP to form a technical working group to support the entire process.
Since the adoption of the roadmap on the development and adoption of the SADC Model Law on Elections in February 2017, we have jointly made tremendous progress towards the finalisation of this important document. For instance, we were able through the Secretariat, to engage legal drafters to craft the draft Model Law from April to August 2017. The draft Model Law was then reviewed by the Standing Committee, the SADC PF Legal Sub-Committee and the Technical Working Group and Legal Sub-Committee from 1 to 2 November 2017. Thereafter, the draft was further reviewed by Legal Draftspersons from Ministries of Justice of SADC Member States from 19 to 23 March 2018. Finally, the draft Model Law was reviewed by the joint session of SADC PF Standing Committees on 10 October 2018.
This meeting is therefore vital as it is the ultimate step before the Model Law in tabled to the Plenary Assembly for adoption during its 44th Session in Maputo, Mozambique from 4 to 6 December 2018.
Hon. Members and Distinguished delegates,
The relevance of the SADC Model Law on Elections cannot be overemphasized. We have witnessed the recurrence of some problems, of course with varying degrees, during elections across the region. These problems include the following:
- Low and declining number of women being elected into public office in spite of the adoption of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development;
- Biased and polarised media coverage of political parties, candidates and electoral events, which undermines the fairness of electoral competition, breeds tension and promotes political conflicts;
- Abuse of public resources in election campaigns by ruling parties that makes the electoral playing field uneven;
- Inadequate funding of EMBs and overreliance on donor funding by the same EMBs;
- Inadequacy of voter education and voter registration systems which affects the accuracy and inclusiveness of the Voters Roll;
- Political intolerance and electoral conflicts, including violence;
- Inadequate measures for participation of the youth in elections, particularly as candidates; and
- A culture of non-acceptance of results by political parties.
The existence of gaps between policy and practice in this regard calls for electoral reforms to be made a bigger priority in our work and the SADC Model Law on Elections is therefore a useful reference.
Over the next two days we have the responsibility to undertake the following tasks as we validate the SADC Model Law on Elections and make it ready for adoption by the Plenary:
- Scrutinise the draft SADC Model Law on Elections to ensure that it contains all the electoral standards, principles, guidelines and obligations that are stipulated in the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and other regional and international election instruments;
- Ensure that the amendments proposed by the Joint Sitting of SADC PF Standing Committees have been incorporated into the draft Model Law;
- Ensure that all proposed amendments to the Model Law are legally correct and are written in grammatically correct English, French and Portuguese and ready for tabling at the 44th Plenary Assembly;
- Satisfy ourselves that the draft Model Law is acceptable, enforceable, and is flexible so that it can be adopted or adapted by Parliaments, Election Management Bodies and other stakeholders; and
- Identify and endorse representatives of partner organisations who will deliver high-level solidarity statements on the occasion of the adoption of the SADC Model Law on Elections by the 44th Plenary Assembly.
Our capable resource persons and the Secretariat will guide through this process.
As I conclude, I wish to thank GIZ most heartily for financially supporting this meeting. GIZ has been providing financial support to the development of the SADC Model Law on Elections from inception.
I also wish to thank the Secretariat for the facilitation and support they have been rendering to the Committee towards the development of the Model Law, including resource mobilisation and research.
I wish all of us two days of fruitful deliberations.
It is now my honour to declare the meeting officially opened.
I thank you.