Cape Town- Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has called on Southern African Development Community (SADC) members to celebrate their commitment to democracy, peace and good political and economic governance this year.
The minister said several of the southern African countries were preparing to hold elections in 2009, ranging from presidential and parliamentary elections, to provincial and local government elections.
Polls are due to be held in South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Mauritius, Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia among others.
"As we conduct these elections, let us live to the promises we have made to our people of ensuring their full participation in the political processes and observe the Principles and Guidelines Governing to ensure success of humanitarian assistance," said Ms Dlamini Zuma.
The minister was speaking at the opening of the two-day SADC Council of Ministers Conference in Cape Town on Thursday. The meeting is set to discuss Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as the regional response to the global economic downturn.
The minister is hosting the ministerial council, which is being attended by the economy, finance, foreign affairs, regional affairs and co-operation ministers from the bloc's 15 member states.
On the conflicts in the region, Ms Dlamini Zuma said the regional body would continue to work with the government and people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar and Zimbabwe in their efforts to address their challenges with a view to ensuring that peace and stability reigned in the region.
Moving on to the global economic crisis, the minister said the challenges posed by the global financial situation required all the countries to be more united in their resolve to collectively find ways to mitigate the effects.
This comes as both currency and commodity markets have become extremely volatile, with the exchange rate depreciating at an alarming pace in several countries and prices of primary commodities tumbling.
Export growth is decelerating and the current-account balances of many countries have shifted back into a rising deficit.
Ms Dlamini Zuma said member states have to work together in confronting various challenges such as those of a political and socio-economic nature, including communicable and preventable diseases, as well as the elimination of barriers to trade and investment and the stabilisation of unstable political situations in order to create a conducive environment for poverty alleviation and sustainable development.