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Friday, 24 August 2007




SADC returns to Lusaka

On August 16-17, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which incorporates 14 (and potentially 15) countries, held its 27th Ordinary Summit Meeting of Heads of State and Government in Lusaka, Zambia. To emphasise its importance, the Summit Meeting was attended by all the SADC Heads of State and Government.

(Seychelles, a member of SADC for many years, was not represented because of a continuing discussion about the membership dues it must pay. The Lusaka Summit, fully sympathetic to the concerns of Seychelles, expressed its determination to do everything possible to ensure that this island-state, geographically and otherwise part of Southern Africa, resumes its rightful place as a fully-fledged Member of the Development Community.)

The SADC Brigade

Undoubtedly, one of the high points of the Summit Meeting was the launch of the SADC Regional Peace-keeping Brigade. This military-police-civilian brigade is made up of personnel drawn from 11 of the member states of SADC. It has been constituted to respond to the challenges of peace, security and stability that face our region.

At the same time, it constitutes a component part of the African Union (AU) Standby Force which Africa is forming to ensure that it has the organised and multi-skilled force to enable it to respond expeditiously to all situations of conflict on our Continent. Thus the launch of the SADC Peace-keeping Brigade represented, in concrete terms, the resolve of our region and continent to rely on its resources effectively to ensure peace and security throughout Africa.

It was indeed very moving to see the 11 mixed formations, each behind its national flag for purposes of identification, assembled on the parade grounds at the Lusaka City Airport. Nobody present at the launch ceremony could have avoided being moved by the fact that despite the variety of the national flags that led and identified the various formations, all the members of the Brigade marched and drilled with great precision, responding to the commands of one Commanding Officer.

Clearly, here, at the Lusaka City Airport, the combined political leaders of our region were presented with a palpable example of the readiness of our region of Southern Africa to act together, to promote African unity, to bind all countries of our region to the cause of peace, to guarantee peace, security and stability on our Continent, and to create the necessary conditions for the defeat of poverty and underdevelopment in Africa.

For us, as South Africans, the ceremony to launch the SADC Brigade had a special significance. We were very happy and proud to see members of our National Defence Force and our Police Service parade together with their comrades from the rest of our region. We felt immensely proud when Colonel Botman, of the SANDF, was called upon to assume the position of the bearer of the flag of the Brigade on the very day that the SADC Brigade was born.

Armed and peaceful

In earlier years, the apartheid armed forces, organised in the SADF, had brought death and destruction throughout our region. They had acted as an instrument of destabilisation, destruction, subversion and regime change in the service of the apartheid regime. Their presence, operations and incursions into virtually all the SADC countries had brought death, suffering and misery to thousands of people throughout our region.

Undoubtedly, among the officers from the rest of our region present on the parade ground at Lusaka City Airport, were nationals of various countries who had had to take up arms to defend the independence of their countries, which was under armed attack by forces of aggression that falsely claimed to represent our interests as South Africans.

At the same time, there were officers from the rest of our region who had worked with the commanders and cadres of Umkhonto we Sizwe, and the rest of our movement, out of the public eye even in their own countries, to contribute to the intensification of the struggle to defeat the apartheid crime against humanity. They did this knowing that inevitably, the apartheid regime, with a benign nod from the major Western capitals, would carry out terrorist acts in their countries, targeting both unarmed members and supporters of our movement, and the civilians of our host countries.

Recalling all these painful circumstances, during which the apartheid regime supported the LLA in Lesotho, Super-ZAPU in Zimbabwe, RENAMO in Moçambique, and UNITA in Angola, and various political formations, we could not but be moved to tears by the concrete representation of the fact that democratic South Africa has dedicated all our military capabilities to the cause of peace, friendship, solidarity and development in our region and Continent.

We were moved that men and women of the military, police and associated civilian forces from our region, and their political leaders, openly and unreservedly expressed confidence in our security forces as reliable partners in the common struggle to consolidate our region as an African perimeter of peace, democracy and development.

As President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia said at the opening session of the SADC Summit Meeting, it was indeed an important matter of note that SADC was meeting in Lusaka for the first time since its formation in the same city in 1980 as the SADCC. As was correctly observed, this was only possible because since 1980, following the independence of Zimbabwe, both Namibia and South Africa had been liberated, ending the long period of colonialism and white minority rule on our Continent.

Regional solidarity

This statement was significant not only as a celebration of victory, but also as a signal of what Southern Africa must do to accelerate its advance towards the eradication of poverty and underdevelopment throughout our region, in the interest of the masses of the people of our region, who had carried the burden of the struggle finally to end colonialism and apartheid in Africa and the world.

Accordingly and correctly, the Lusaka Summit Meeting focused on the urgent task to transform the economies of our region, to ensure that as an integrated whole, they meet the aspirations of the masses of the people of Southern Africa.

In this regard, the Lusaka Summit Meeting was exposed to what can be done. President Bingu wa Mutharika announced that Malawi would donate 5 000 metric tons of maize each to Lesotho and Swaziland, in the light of their food shortages, caused by drought.
President Mwanawasa also announced that Zambia had donated 10 000 metric tons of maize to the World Food Programme (WFP) to be made available to any SADC country in need.

The Zimbabwe economy

The Summit Meeting also approved the urgent initiation of a process that would identify the measures that the SADC region should take to assist in the economic recovery of Zimbabwe. The report prepared by the SADC Secretariat in this regard

"The restoration of the country's foreign exchange generating capacity through Balance of Payments support is crucial: however, the most urgent action that is needed to start this process is to establish lines of credit to enable Zimbabwe to import inputs for its productive sectors, particularly for agriculture and foreign currency generating sectors.

"SADC should do all it can to help Zimbabwe address the issue of sanctions, which is not only hurting the economy through failure to get BoP support and lines of credit, but also through reduced markets for its products. Sanctions also damage the image of Zimbabwe, causing a severe blow to her tourist sector.

"Zimbabwe on her part must continue to implement robust policies to reduce the overvaluation of the exchange rate, to reduce the budget deficit and to control the growth of domestic credit and money supply which fuel inflation, and to reduce price distortions in the economy. Equally important is the need to avoid frequent changes in policy initiatives, which have caused uncertainties and led to the view that the policy environment is unpredictable."

In this regard, on Monday, August 20, the Business Day newspaper published a wholly fabricated story alleging that the SADC leaders were divided over this report, describing a discussion at the Summit Meeting that never took place. This is consistent with an unethical practice in sections of our media in terms of which they manufacture news and information and communicate complete fiction as the truth.

The newspaper manufactured an unbridgeable "rift" resulting in a non-existent paralysis among the leaders, arising out of the discussion that never took place. The fact of the matter is that, acting on the recommendation of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, (the Organ), the SADC Summit Meeting accepted the report on the Zimbabwe economy, as well as the proposal of the Organ that our Finance Ministers, in consultation with the Government of Zimbabwe, should use the report to elaborate specific interventions that could be made by our region.

The hostile allegation that our countries have recklessly turned their eyes away from the problems of Zimbabwe, because of the imperatives of solidarity, has always been nothing more than a product of propaganda, which all thinking persons would recognise as such. The reality is that in a very real sense the problems of Zimbabwe are our problems, in the same way that the problems of the rest of Southern Africa are problems for Zimbabwe as well. Our entire region stands to benefit most directly from the recovery of Zimbabwe, in much the same way as Zimbabwe benefits from the progress of the region of Southern Africa, of which it is an integral and inalienable part.

The Lusaka Summit Meeting reconfirmed these fundamental positions, which include unqualified respect for the sovereignty of Zimbabwe and the right of its people to determine their destiny. At no point will SADC and its member states act as a super-power that has the right to expropriate the people of Zimbabwe of their right to self-determination, as imperial Britain did.

African unity & regional economic integration

The Lusaka Summit Meeting agreed that the 2008 normal SADC Summit Meeting, which will be held in our country, will launch our regional Free Trade Area. This Summit Meeting will also discuss the decision to transform the SADC region into a Customs Union by 2010. Before then, detailed work will also be done to prepare the basis for the radical improvement of all elements of the regional infrastructure. All this indicates the serious commitment of SADC rapidly to advance the critically important objective of mutually beneficial regional integration.

As we have reported before, the July 2007 AU Summit Meeting decided that the African Regional Economic Communities must serve as the driving force towards the political and economic unity of Africa. This important decision adds an important dimension to the historic obligation SADC has, seriously to attend to the issue of our region's integration, and its cooperation with other regions of our Continent.

This is particularly important in the light of the fact that our region conveyed a united view at the Accra AU Summit Meeting, insisting that the only rational and possible way to proceed towards the realisation of the objective of a United States of Africa is "from the bottom up", with the RECs, such as SADC, serving as the critical building blocks of the architecture out of which will be realised the age-old continental dream of African unity.

The 27th Ordinary Summit Meeting of SADC confirmed the determination of our region to respond to this challenge. The launch of the SADC Brigade, the first component of the African Union Standby Force, represented a practical demonstration of the commitment of the peoples of Southern Africa to help give meaning to the resolve of the peoples of Africa to take their destiny into their hands. This is confirmed by the fact that the entirety of the AU/UN "hybrid force" for Darfur, which will include SANDF and SAPS personnel, will be composed of African personnel.

As we knew and said during the difficult years when Lusaka served as the Headquarters of the ANC, Africa will be free!

Thabo Mbeki

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