The origins of APLESA date back to 1986. It arose as a need for an interest group for  parliamentary librarians to be established to stand as an organ of the Standing Conference of  Eastern and Southern Africa Librarians (SCECSAL). Members of the Interim Committee  formed then were supposed to be those who were able to attend SCECSAL conferences and  meet as distinct group in order to share experiences and compare notes on parliamentary  aspects. It took a little bit of time for this noble idea to take off due to a variety of reasons  among which was the inability of the people concerned to attend SCECSAL conferences as  they were not funded by the parent institutions (parliaments).  

In March 1990, Mr. Winford Gurure- a librarian to Parliament of Zimbabwe revived the idea  and sent circulars inviting colleagues in the eastern and southern Africa region about it. The  idea was given support in August 1990 when it was introduced instead at the Satellite meeting  of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) section on  Libraries and Research services for parliaments and at the main meetings of IFLA in Oslo and  Stockholm respectively.  

Hence, in 1990 and 1991 IFLA conferences, Mr. Gurure got a lot of encouragement to  spearhead the formation of a regional organ of parliamentary librarians from members of other  regional associations of Canada, Australia, Asia and the Pacific where similar association exist  namely; 

  • Association of Parliamentary Librarians in Canada (APLIC) 
  • Association of Parliamentary Librarians in Australasia (APLA) 
  • Association of Parliamentary Librarians in Asia and the Pacific (APLAP) 

This was done with a strong conviction that in every profession, practitioners do have  tendencies to network and always be in contact with each other whether nationally, trans border or internationally. It is against this background that the Eastern and southern Africa  regional librarians took credence to this practice by a visit to some countries within the region  including Kenya in 1991 by the late Jario G, the then Parliament Librarian of Namibia. In July  1991, a proposal for financial assistance was sent to the International Development Research  Centre (IDRC) regional office in Nairobi to help in the feasibility study into a possibility of the  formation of a network of Parliamentary librarians in the region. This study was hence carried  out in March 1992 when Mr. Gurure visited the parliament of Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia  where therefore it was agreed that; 

a) A steering committee be established immediately to plan the formation of the  network of parliamentary librarians in eastern and southern Africa. The  committee members that were eventually put in place included: 

  • R.R Mwale of Zambia- Chairman 
  • P.A Ntomola of Tanzania Vice Chairman 
  • W.H.C Gurure- Co-ordinator 
  • B.B Liyawo of Malawi- Vice Co-ordinator. 

b) The name of the grouping to be called the Association of Parliamentary  Librarians in Eastern and Southern Africa (APLESA) be accepted. Later, the  name was changed to include the word Libraries instead of Librarians because there are other professionals providing information services in Parliamentary  libraries other than Librarians. 

c) Bilateral exchange of newspapers be arranged as soon as practicable and that  inaugural meeting of APLESA should be convened after all the necessary  ground work had been completed and the funds secured for the meeting. 

Between October 11th to 13th 1994, Parliament of Zimbabwe hosted the APLESA inaugural  meeting that was attended by the following eleven countries; 

  • a) Botswana,  
  • b) Kenya,  
  • c) Lesotho,  
  • d) Malawi,  
  • e) Namibia, 
  • f) South Africa,  
  • g) Swaziland,  
  • h) Tanzania,  
  • i) Uganda,  
  • j) Zambia and  
  • k) Zimbabwe 

This 3-day meeting managed to come up with a draft APLESA constitution. However, a  number of challenges were identified. All the challenges identified were related to inadequate  funding and poor resource allocation for parliamentary libraries, roles of librarians,  qualifications of librarians and staffing levels in libraries of parliament. Hence members came  up with a number of recommendations among which included a need to provide sufficient  funds to enable parliamentary libraries to function effectively in terms of collection  development and on capacity development activities like attachments, study visits and training,  all of which were lacking in most of the parliamentary libraries then. It was also suggested that  APLESA should maintain a regular newsletter. 

During the inaugural meeting in Harare, elections were held to fill the vacant positions of the  first APLESA Executive committee as follows; 

  • Ms Tembi Chalabase Mtine (Zambia)- Chairperson
  • Mr. Ntoloma P.A (Tanzania)- Vice Chairperson ∙ Mr. Liyawo B.B (Malawi)- Secretary 
  • Ms Molebatsi (Botswana)- Vice Secretary 
  • Mr. Songoro (Kenya)- Committee Member
  • Mr. Masawi (Zimbabwe) Committee Member. 

Members were strongly urged to implement what had been agreed in the inaugural meeting.  Members were also called to cooperate fully. The advice was echoed by the Zimbabwean  Parliamentary Deputy Chairman of Committees Ode G.W. Marange on behalf of Parliament of  Zimbabwe. 

Since its inauguration in 1994 in Harare, Zimbabwe, APLESA has had the following  Chairperson namely; 

  • Ms Tembi Mtine 1994/98
  • Ms Ellen Ndeshi Namhila 1998/2000 
  • Mr. Raliile Donovan T 2000/02 
  • Ms. Butale Florence 2002/03 
  • Ms Mwakio Grace 2003/09 
  • Mr. Simon Engitu 2009/13 
  • Ms Esther Kamau 2013/17 
  • Mr. Geraldo Cambiete 2017 todate 

Current status of APLESA 

To date The APLESA membership comprises of 15 parliaments which are;

  1. Angola
  2. Botswana,  
  3. East African Legislative Assembly (EALA),  
  4. Kenya,  
  5. Malawi,  
  6. Mozambique.  
  7. Namibia,  
  8. Seychelles 
  9. South Africa,  
  10. eSwatini,  
  11. Tanzania,  
  12. Uganda,  
  13. Zambia, and 
  14. Zimbabwe, 

The following were once members but have gone into abeyance and are no longer active in APLESA activities. They are

  • Ethiopia,
  • Lesotho,
  • Rwanda

We are doing our best to attract them back to APLESA
Other parliaments have shown interest to join APLESA and we are waiting to receive a communication from anyone of them indicating intentions to join us. We have interacted with the representatives of the;

  • Democratic Republic of Congo Parliament of the (DRC).
  • Pan African Parliament (PAP)

However, there are others that are eligible to join APLESA as members. They include;

  1. Burundi
  2. Djibouti,
  3. Eritrea,
  4. Madagascar and
  5. Mauritius,
  6. Reunion
  7. Somalia
  8. South Sudan

To become an APLESA member, one needs to fall under the following categorization;

a) APLESA Member Parliaments of the region.  

b) Associate membership for other Parliaments other than those in the APLESA region.

c) Observer status may be accorded to libraries of legislatures on the invitation of the  APLESA Executive Committee. 

The eligible member countries are those within the SADC region, the East African  Community and those in the Horn of Africa including among others; Djibouti, Eritrea. In  addition, the islands of Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar and Reunion are also eligible.  

APLESA Organisational Structure 

APLESA’s organizational structure is set out in the APLESA Constitution which spells out the  internal organizational structure of APLESA. The Annual General Meeting (AGM) is the  supreme body of the APLESA structure. 

The APLESA Executive Committee is composed of 7 members including the President, the  Vice President, the Secretary General, and three other members elected from various member  parliaments in addition to the Treasurer who is appointed. This Committee is responsible for  the strategic direction of the Association. 

Working Committees are set up to assist the Executive Committee with specific assignments.  They report to the Executive Committee itself. There can be various committees depending on  the specific issue at hand that needs to be addressed. At one time the following were working committees in place namely; 

  • Constitution Committee 
  • Training and Capacity Development Committee 
  • Marketing and Communication Committee  

The Marketing and Communication committee came up after a suggestion to improve the  image of APLESA. Initially there were four working committees.  

Diagrammatically, APLESA organisational structure can be represented as follows;

1 AN : Angola 9. SA : South Africa

2 BW : Botswana  10. SZ : eSwatini 

3 EAL : East African Legislative  Assembly  11. TZ : Tanzania

4 KE : Kenya  12. ET : Ethiopia

5 LS : Lesotho  13. UG : Uganda 

6 MW : Malawi  14. ZM : Zambia

7 MZ : Mozambique  15. ZW : Zimbabwe 

8 NM : Namibia  16. SC : Seychelles 

The decisions of the Annual General Meetings are communicated to the Clerks of Parliament  or the Secretary Generals of member parliaments by the President of APLESA. This is because  some of the issues have financial connotations and hence require support from the member  parliaments. 

However, on issues of general concern to APLESA, and on issues of information sharing,  members communicate directly to each other unless otherwise the information is treated  confidential, member staff seek clarification and permission from the offices of the Secretary  Generals so as to share that information.

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