SADC leaders under pressure to solve political logjams

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pretoria - Leaders from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will hold their ordinary summit next week under growing pressure to clear up the political logjams in Zimbabwe and Madagascar.

The regional bloc will meet in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Monday. It will be the last SADC meeting that President Jacob Zuma will chair, before handing over to DRC President Joseph Kabila.

The Heads of State are expected to review the success of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), signed by President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Muthumbara in September last year.

The GPA effectively was aimed at establishing a government of national unity aimed at resolving long-running political tensions in the country.

However, the implementation of the GPA has stalled over a number of issues, including the naming of the central bank chief.

SADC leaders are expected to review of the allocation of ministerial positions in Zimbabwe's inclusive government. In its last meeting said it would review the ministerial positions after a six-month period.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change said despite a certain degree of peace in the country, the MDC remained frustrated that certain parts of the agreement were not being fully implemented.

He however, said the MDC was committed to ensuring that the GPA provided a foundation for a healthy, prosperous and open society. "I shall do everything in my authority that this is the Zimbabwe that we deliver to the people," he said.

President Zuma, as SADC chairperson, visited Zimbabwe to hold talks with the countries leadership.

He reiterated that financial assistance pledged by various donors hinged on the complete implementation of the agreement. He therefore urged the coalition partners to fulfil their commitments.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch urged SADC leaders to press Zimbabwe's power-sharing government to end ongoing human rights violations and to implement legal reforms.

"SADC leaders should stand with the people of Zimbabwe by calling for urgent reforms to address the country's political and human rights crisis. Without these necessary changes, Zimbabwe's inclusive government will continue to be built on sand," said Gorgette Gagnon, Africa Director at Human Rights Watch.

South Africa's International Relations and Cooperation Director General Ayanda Ntsaluba described next week's summit as very important due to the change in chairmanship.

"South Africa will have to give a bit of an account of what happened during our chairmanship. At the summit, President Zuma will leave the chairmanship of the region to for his DRC counterpart Joseph Kabila," he said in a recent briefing.

There have been fears that President Kabila will not be tough on Zimbabwe, however, Dr Ntsaluba, said that SADC was very clear about its policies on the country.

"A roadmap is already there, so it a matter of implementation and addressing the challenges. Even when we face difficulties among ourselves, the culture of SADC is to discuss and chart a way forward. This will not change with the DRC taking over," said Dr Ntsaluba.

It is the first time for the war-torn vast central African country to host a SADC summit since joining the organization in September 1997 and by giving it the chairmanship, the region will also be giving Kinshasa a role to play as an economic engine in central and southern Africa.

The country has a vast market for the investors in the community.

Another concern for the regional body is the situation in Madagascar. The country was suspended from SADC earlier this year when President Marc Ravalomanana was overthrown by Andry Rajoelina, the mayor of the capital city, Antananarivo.

Mozambique's former president Joaquim Chissano is expected to update the summit on his efforts to mediate between the country's main political rivals and form a transitional government. This would lead the island nation towards holding fresh elections.

Talks in Maputo last week ended without an agreement on the naming of the new government. However, power-brokers are still trying to make a decision on the island's leadership by Friday ahead of the summit.

Other issues expected to be listed on the agenda include the regions response to the economic difficulties caused by the global financial crisis, the launch of a wider Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and the UniVisa which is expected to the in use during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The summit is also expected to elect a country to take over the African Union chairperson from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, whose tenure expires in January. The AU chair rotates according to regions and the next chair should come from the SADC region