June 29 2022 will forever occupy a place in the annals of history after Zimbabwe Chiefs Council president Chief Fortune Zephaniah Charumbira was overwhelmingly voted President of the Pan African Parliament (PAP).
Prior to his election, Chief Charumbira had been acting President of the Midrand-based Pan-African legislature that was founded in 2004 by the African Union and has more than 275 MPs drawn from parliaments of the 55 African Union members states.
His election by a majority 161 out of the 203 MPs who voted made him the first person from southern Africa to occupy the position at PAP.
Thirty one MPs abstained from voting, while eleven other votes were counted as spoilt, on a night which marked the end of a tumultuous few previous months as the legislative body haggled over the need to adopt the principle of rotation in electing its presidents.
Since its formation in 2004, PAP had been led by presidents from the eastern, central and western regions.
PAP is an Organ of the African Union and the Constitutive Act of the African Union lists the Organs as: the AU Assembly of Heads of States, AU Executive Council (Foreign Ministers), Pan African Parliament, Permanent Representative Council (Ambassadors based in Addis Ababa) and lastly the AU Commission.
PAP was established to ensure full participation of the people of Africa in the affairs of the continent (economic, social and political) and also promotion of regional integration.
Chief Charumbira succeeds Mr Roger Nkodo Dang, a Cameroonian whose term lapsed in 2019 before the Zimbabwe chiefs council president, who had been one of the four vice presidents, took over as acting leader.
The AU has since resolved that leadership of PAP should rotate amongst different geographical regions, namely Southern Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, West Africa and North Africa.
The PAP southern regional caucus chose Chief Charumbira to be its sole candidate for the PAP presidency prior to his win.
The whole of southern Africa rallied behind Chief Charumbira to succeed Mr Dang.
Besides his promise to unite PAP, Chief Charumbira won because of his sterling record within the parliamentary body that saw him occupying various portfolios from the time he first became a member of the legislative body in 2009.
Commending on his victory, Chief Charumbira paid tribute to the Southern Regional Caucus for standing by his candidature after nominating him to be the 5th president of PAP.
Chief Charumbira, while also saying there was no loser with PAP being the only winner, expressed gratitude to President Mnangagwa.
“I want to thank my country Zimbabwe, my fellow Zimbabwe delegation to the Pan African Parliament and in a very special way our President His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa for this unprecedented and foundational support to my candidacy without which I would not be standing here today,” said Chief Charumbira in his acceptance speech after being elected PAP president.
He dedicated his crushing win to his fellow colleagues in the Southern Regional Caucus, saying the victory belonged to them after they took brickbats and made many sacrifices to make sure he landed at the post.
Chief Charumbira conceded that he was fully aware that the battle in the run up to his election as PAP leader was not about him as a person.
“You (Southern Regional Caucus) withstood several attacks, sacrificed so much in terms of time, talent and resources to see that equity and fairness are restored at the Pan African Parliament,” he said.
“I won’t harbour any mistaken illusion that the struggle that preceded my election as President was about me. However, I cannot lose sight of your decision to entrust me and present me as the anchor of those values, principles and convictions that were manifested in the struggle that preceded my election today.”
Chief Charumbira paid tribute to the Northen Regional Caucus for yielding its ambition to provide a presidential candidate, saying the caucus demonstrated that no “individual was bigger than the desire to see a stable and United PAP” that plays a driving role in shaping the magnitude of Africa’s socio-economic transformation via an effective continental legislative body.
“I would be remiss if I do not thank, in a very special way, our colleagues from the western, eastern and central caucus for your determination to elevate our institution beyond the colonial divisions of language and religion,” he said.
“Your vote today has demonstrated that no amount of superficial divisions of language and religion can overshadow our collective aspirations of a united parliament.”
Pledging readiness to work with everyone, Chief Charumbira paid homage to AU Commission chair Mr Faki Mahamat for exhibiting consistency and tenacity of purpose prior to and during the conduct of the watershed vote that answered to the principle of geographical rotation as resolved by the African Union.
Rallying Africa to the clarion call to silence guns across Africa and turning pockets of instability into havens of peace and solidarity, Chief Charumbira noted that the journey ahead had many challenges, but highlighted the importance of working in unison to eradicate problems stymieing socio-economic development and peace. Chief Charumbira lamented the towering ghost of climate change that was roaming across the continent, leaving a trail of droughts and floods that were taking a toll on the peoples of the continent.
Infrastructural development also remained a pipe dream for some societies in regions blighted by armed conflict, he said.
The continent also required a robust response and intervention for a soft landing after the ruinous Covid-19 pandemic that disrupted health systems, added Chief Charumbira. Chief Charumbira vowed to tackle the problem of unfriendly visa regimes that he said negated the objectives of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Chief Charumbira is an ardent traditionalist who firmly believes in the upholding of African values, traditions and norms.
In the Parliament of Zimbabwe, he always defends cultural values like payment of lobola and resists same sex marriage.
After becoming a PAP member in 2009, Chief Charumbira was in May 2012 elected chair of the Permanent Committee on Audit and Public Accounts for three years.
Prior to that, he had chaired an ad-hoc body, the Committee on Administrative and Financial Evaluation (CAFE) of PAP.
In October 2018, Chief Charumbira was elected unopposed as one of the vice presidents of the PAP Bureau representing the Southern Africa region.
Chief Charumbira was born on 10 June 1962 and attended Gokomere High School before he enrolled for a Bachelor’s Degree (Honours) in Administration (including Labour Law and Administrative Law) at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) in 1987.
His father was the late Senator Zephaniah Charumbira who was also president of the Chiefs Council before his death in 1991.
Chief Charumbira holds an MBA from UZ and has a Special Masters in Consulting and Coaching Change with the INSEAD France in association with Havard Business School.
He is a PhD student.
Following the death of his father, Chief Charumbira served as acting chief before he was appointed substantive Chief Charumbira in 2000 when he also became Member of Parliament.
He was subsequently elected secretary general of the Zimbabwe chiefs’ council before succeeding Chief Jonathan Mangwende as Chiefs Council president in 2005.
In 2013, Chief Charumbira was re-elected president of the Zimbabwe chiefs council unopposed.
Between 2002 and 2005, he served as Deputy Minister of Local Government.
Prior to his installation as substantive, Chief Charumbira worked for Coopers and Lybrand in 1996, which assigned him to work under a World Bank project to restructure the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) as its change management consultant.
He worked under similar projects thereafter and in 1998 he moved to KPMG doing similar tasks.
In 1999, Chief Charumbira was contracted by the World Bank in his personal capacity and an Institutional Change Specialist.
He is married to Mrs Priscilla Charumbira and is a father to seven children.