African Peer Review Mechanism makes progress, but it’s ‘heavy going’

2014-01-30 08:56

African Union (AU) Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) should become so effective that it becomes Africa’s premier ratings agency.

Dlamini-Zuma was speaking at the opening of a meeting of the eminent persons panel of the APRM yesterday, where Equitorial Guinea, a dictatorship on the list of the 12 most corrupt countries, had become the 34th country on the continent to sign up.

So far, 17 countries have been evaluated.

One of the panellists, ANC national executive committee chairperson Baleka Mbete told City Press the panellists “are not happy over how long it has taken to be fully capacitated in the process, but these are issues that we must deal with over time”.

She said there had been a lot of progress in the decade since the APRM had been established. “Initially, very few countries were part of it.”

She said: “There are issues where we can improve, that we have been picking up, and that we should be invigorating in the process. It is heavy going.”

Steven Gruzd from the SA Institute of International Affairs said the APRM had always wanted all 54 member states of the AU to join.

He said the mechanism’s reports are in-depth, and even predicted the xenophobic violence in South Africa even though South Africa failed to heed the warning.

The institute is, however, asking questions about the transparency of the APRM’s governance. “The annual reports don’t always come out in time, and don’t show how the money is being spent,” he said.

“We need more transparency for a mechanism that is all about governance.”

He said it was good that Equitorial Guinea had also signed up to the APRM and showed willingness to be evaluated.

President Jacob Zuma presented the third progress report by South Africa with regards to South Africa’s implementation of the national programme of action to the meeting in a closed session.

His spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, said in a statement that the report reflected that South Africa “is a better place to live in than it was in 1994”.

He quoted Zuma as saying: “The report on democracy and political governance reflects that South Africa has achieved better scores in the areas of political stability, good citizenship and poverty alleviation over the period 2009 to 2011”.

But Zuma said there were still challenges in “consolidating democracy and political governance, which included service delivery challenges, instances of xenophobia and violence against women and children”.

According to Maharaj, the report received a positive response in the meeting, with the Lead Panel Member in charge of SA, professor Amos Sawyer, saying South Africa continued to set standards on corporate governance.

The National Development Plan, efforts by government and civil society to fight xenophobia and racism, progress on HIV and Aids prevention and public participation programmes such as imbizos were praised in the meeting.

The APRM is a voluntary mechanism and was established in 2003 to enable African countries to evaluate each other on governance.

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