SADC leaders meet on regional sticking points

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma is in Angola today to attend the Southern African Development Community (SADC) 31st ordinary summit amid a backdrop of instability, with growing popular unrest in several countries.

The summit will take place under the theme, 'Consolidating the basis of regional integration: development of infrastructures to facilitate the commercial exchange and economic liberalisation."

But the theme runs the risk of being overshadowed by other tricky issues, including Zimbabwe, protests in Malawi, a political impasse in Madagascar and Swaziland's financial crisis.

Last night, the security troika of Mozambique, Zambia and South Africa was locked in talks ahead of the formal opening of the summit this morning.

The facilitators are racing against time, with fears that the 2008 global political agreement (GPA), which obligated President Robert Mugabe to share power with his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) political rivals, is teetering on the brink of collapse.

This comes as Mugabe is pushing for elections, even though the GPA agreement stipulates that there must be a constitution and referendum first.

Another issue will be Malawi, which has been rocked by anti-government protests - where 19 people were killed when security forces opened fire on demonstrators last month.

After the unrest, SADC sent an observer mission to the country, which will report back at the summit.

Swaziland's King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch, is facing growing opposition to his regime amid a financial crisis that saw the country getting a R2.4-billion loan from South Africa.

Leaders will also race to sort out the situation in Madagascar, which was suspended from the grouping in 2009 after former President Marc Ravalomanana was ousted by Andry Rajoelina.

On other issues, the summit will also see Pretoria assuming chairmanship of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, the International Relations Department said on Monday.

The event will also see Namibia hand over its SADC chairmanship to Angola.

The department said the development community continued to serve as the primary vehicle to achieve regional development and integration within southern Africa.

Regional integration was a "fundamental condition" for sustainable development of the region, it said.

"As a member of SADC, South Africa knows that its future is inextricably linked to the future of the African continent and that of its neighbours in southern Africa," the ministry said.

Zuma will be accompanied by the Ministers of International Relations and Co-operation, Home Affairs, Defence and Military Veterans, Correctional Services, State Security, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and Water and Environmental Affairs.

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