Darlington Musarurwa in LILONGWE, Malawi
President Mnangagwa yesterday held a tête-à-tête with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on the sidelines of the 41st Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government here.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Frederick Shava and Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri also attended the meeting alongside their South African counterparts as President Ramaphosa paid a courtesy call on President Mnangagwa.
The two Presidents later joined fellow regional leaders during the opening ceremony of the summit, where outgoing Sadc executive secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax reiterated the need for regional countries to remain united, including in their stance against sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.
“Just like it was the case during the years of the struggle for liberation of Southern African countries, whenever SADC proclaims its position in unity, the world listens,” said Dr Tax.
“When SADC united to affirm its position on the removal of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, on the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, and on non-interference in the internal affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the world listened attentively. This is the case even at continental level.
“This notwithstanding, it is worth noting that we are currently confronted with different challenges in the new economic order. Let us sustain and strengthen our position in unity and avoid being fragmented and marginalised, as together we will continue to stand, while divided we will stumble and fall.
“Challenges of today are different and complex and sometimes may seem not to be visible, but are real, requiring us to remain vigilant and united.”
Dr Tax said while SADC countries had made notable progress in managing their economies, Covid-19 and the fall in commodity prices had exerted pressure on an already weak regional economy.
Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera, who officially assumed the chairmanship of the 16-member regional bloc, said there was urgent need to tackle inequalities and disparities in accessing Covid-19 vaccines, as this was “seriously hindering efforts to save the lives of millions in the SADC”.
Africans, he said, had a moral duty to refuse second-class status in the rules of engagement for participating in the global economy and could do this by working together to change the global status quo as it is rigged against the continent.
“And now, as the world faces this global health crisis that has killed millions, torpedoed economies and disrupted social order, we as Africans have a moral duty to reject second-class status in the distribution and production of Covid-19 vaccines, vaccines invented and manufactured in labs where some of the scientists doing such work are Africans,” said President Chakwera.
“So the time has come for us to insist that a vaccine that preserves and sustains a person’s basic right to life belongs to all nations, no matter who discovered it.
“It is our considered view that the SADC we want is untenable without levelling the playing field on Covid-19 pandemic, revitalising the agricultural sector, enhancing value addition, facilitating trade and simplifying rules of origin.”
President Chakwera said SADC should leverage on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to become “a breadbasket and export basket” of the continent.
Member States were also urged to fully implement the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap, Regional Agricultural Policy, and Regional Infrastructure Development Masterplan, among other initiatives, meant to create a modern, stable and prosperous region.
In his speech at the Summit, the immediate past SADC chair, President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique, noted that regional leaders would be kept abreast of progress made by SADC troops deployed to deal with the insurgency in northern Mozambique.
“We congratulate countries of the region for the brotherhood and prompt solidarity demonstrated by the deployment of SADC Standby Force capabilities in the spirit of the SADC Mutual Defence Pact, which was launched on August 9 2021 in Pemba City, Cabo Delgado province,” he said.
“The deployment of this mission was the culmination of coordinated action between our countries under close cooperation with the Chair of SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation.
“We are aware of the need to complement these military interventions with immediate humanitarian assistance and investment in development in the medium and long term, along with the prevention and awareness of citizens against this scourge.”
Zimbabwe is contributing 304 specialist military instructors to the mission.
At the 2021 SADC Media Awards held during the Summit, Emmanuel Chamalimba of Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN) raised Zimbabwe’s flag high when he won second prize in the television journalism category.
The awards were established in 1996 to recognise best media work in disseminating information on SADC to support the process of regional cooperation and integration in the region.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a limited number of delegates will physically attend this year’s summit, which is running under the theme, “Bolstering productive capacities in the face of Covid-19 pandemic for inclusive, sustainable, economic and industrial transformation.”
The regional body has opted for a hybrid format that combines face-to-face meetings and virtual engagements.