Namibia takes over SADC chair

The Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba has taken over the chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for the next 12 months as the 15-member bloc looks back on 30 years of existence while political hot spots like Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Lesotho and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are still requiring political solutions.

Speaking at the opening of the two-day SADC summit for heads of state, President Pohamba said during his tenure he would work to further strengthen “our capacity to confront and solve the common challenges we face.”
All SADC heads of state or government were in attendance yesterday, including Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. The membership of Madagascar is currently suspended due to a coup d’etat that took place on the island state.

The summit is to discuss a report on Zimbabwe submitted by the SADC Tribunal, as the country has ignored three consecutive rulings made by the Tribunal, ordering Mugabe’s government to allow more than 70 white farmers and their workers to live and work on their farms until the sale of their farms is accompanied by compensation.

According to a well-placed source, the SADC justice ministers apparently did not complete this report. “Nobody wants to spoil the 30th jubilee SADC summit with this hot potato and embarrass Mugabe,” the source told The Namibian yesterday.
According to Pohamba, the SADC standby force is now fully operational and recent mediation efforts by SADC will consolidate peace and stability. “The amendment to the existing SADC Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation to form a SADC Electoral Advisory Council has been finalised and is ready for signature,” Pohamba announced. “During Namibia’s chairmanship we will accelerate joint programmes for development to enhance co-operation in industrial, competition and consumer protection policies,” Pohamba promised.

Although SADC had reached an agreement on co-ordinating trade liberalisation through a tripartite task force including SADC, the East African Community (EAC) and Comesa (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa), it was lagging behind with the free movement of goods and people, he added.

“Our region and the European Union (EU) are still in ongoing negotiations about economic partnership agreements (EPAs) and are at a critical stage in resolving outstanding issues that emanated from the 2009 Swakopmund meeting.
“In order to advance the interests of SADC and enhance the process regional integration, SADC needs to move forward in unity to ensure an outcome of the EPA negotiations that is beneficial to all its member states,” Pohamba emphasised.

SADC could look back with satisfaction on achievements made over the past 30 years, but more had to be done, he said. “We have a historic opportunity to realise the dreams of SADC citizens for improved life quality and a secure, brighter future for the next generations.”

While outgoing SADC chairman and DRC president Joseph Kabila in his speech said SADC could be proud of democratic institution, rule of law and human rights achievements, over 70 human rights organisations of southern Africa issued an open letter yesterday calling on Kabila to have the death of a leading DRC human rights activist, Floribert Chebeya, investigated by a credible commission.

Chebeya was found dead in June in the back seat of his car outside Kinshasa with his hands tied behind his back. His driver is still missing. The official investigation has achieved almost nothing and bears the hallmarks of a cover-up rather than any real attempt to uncover the truth,” Hubert Tshiswaka of OSISA (Open Society for Southern Africa) said in the letter.

Four former SADC heads of state also attended the opening ceremony yesterday: Sam Nujoma, Ketumile Masire of Botswana, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique. Chissano is currently the SADC mediator for Madagascar.

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