SADC leaders suspend Madagascar

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mbabane - Southern African leaders have suspended Madagascar from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for what they describe as an unconstitutional change of government.

The member states further called on Andry Rajoelina to step down and vacate the President's office as a matter of urgency or face the consequences.

"The extraordinary summit suspends Madagascar from all community institutions and organs until the return of the country to constitutional order," said SADC Executive Director Tomaz Salomao told media at the close of the summit.

Marc Ravalomanana withdrew his leadership of the east African island under pressure two weeks ago. The military handed power to opposition leader Andry Rajoelina who was then installed as head of a transitional authority.

The 15-member body held a special summit in Ezulwini, outside Swaziland's capital Mbanane on Monday to discuss the findings of a fact-finding mission which was sent to Madagascar to investigate the crisis.

The SADC Troika on Politics, Defence and Security said earlier this month it would propose that SADC impose tough sanctions on the country.

The African Union (AU) decided on March 20 to suspend Madagascar's membership, denouncing the change in the government as a coup and gave the island country six months to hold a general election.

Western governments have agreed and some have suspended non-humanitarian aid to the island nation.

Meanwhile, the summit also called for the lifting of all forms of sanctions against Zimbabwe and urged donors and international financial institutions to support Zimbabwe financially, for its economic recovery.

It is estimated that the short-term emergency recovery programme developed by the government of Zimbabwe towards its recovery plan could be around $10 billion.

Last week, Minister of Finance Tendai Biti revealed that Zimbabwe's woes were worse than initially estimated. He said Zimbabwe now needed at least $8 billion to revive its economy.

Hospitals, schools, roads, water and sanitation were in need of urgent attention. Most Zimbabweans are on the verge of starvation.

The UN estimates that about seven million of the country's nine million people are in dire need of food aid.

Mr Biti said running the government was costing $100-million a month - way above its monthly 20-million revenue collected.