FOUNDING fathers of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) were honoured at the ongoing 42nd Summit of the regional bloc, home to 340 million people and a region that is now charting a new path emboldened by the spirit encapsulated by leaders such as President Mnangagwa that it is only Africans that can develop the continent.
The Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference (SADCC), the forerunner to Sadc, was a memorandum of understanding on common economic development signed in Lusaka, Zambia, on April 1 1980.
It had nine of the region’s founding presidents who are, however, all now late but left behind a distinct legacy of self-rule, co-operation and non-interference from foreign regions on matters that affect or afflict the region.
In that vein, Sadc came into effect in 1992, with the objective to further regional socio-economic co-operation and integration as well as political and security co-operation among 16 countries in southern Africa.
This year, the summit is being held in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the resource-rich countries in the world yet impoverished by foreign intrusion that fuels conflicts, with an apt theme, “Promoting Industrialisation through, agro-processing, mineral beneficiation, and regional value chains for inclusive and resilient economic growth”.
The theme indicates the region’s commitment to improving the welfare of its people through value addition and mineral beneficiation, instead of raw exports that deprive local communities of jobs that accrue in the value chain and which has since the attainment of most Southern African countries’ independence, become the norm.
As a reminder of the role that the founding fathers of the regional bloc played and in furtherance of their collective legacy, President Mnangagwa among other Heads of State and Government, awarded them posthumously with awards that were received by surviving spouses, children and country representatives.
In alphabetical order of countries, the founding fathers of the regional body who were honoured are Angola’s first President Agostinho Neto, Botswana’s founding President Seretse Khama, Eswatini’s King Sobhuza, Malawi’s Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Mozambique’s Cde Samora Machel, Tanzania’s first President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Zambia’s President Kenneth Kaunda, and Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe.
Former First Lady Grace Mugabe received the honour on behalf of the Mugabe family and had a small chat with President Mnangagwa after receiving the award.
Apart from honouring the region’s founding fathers, there were also other awards where the Business Editor of The Herald’s sister paper, the Chronicle, Prosper Ndlovu, was the overall winner of the 2022 Sadc media awards, walking away with US$2 500.
Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera, who is the outgoing Sadc chairperson, spoke strongly against the plunder of African resources by the Western world saying Africa is open for business but it is not open for sale or looting.
He said it takes only Africans to build the continent and not foreigners who have fuelled tensions and divisions in the region.
In his rousing speech that spoke about the need for Africa to define its destiny and chart a new independent course, President Chakwera echoed President Mnangagwa whose emancipation and none but ourselves gospel has reached far and wide on the continent.
“We must defend what is ours and make sure that no one takes from us what is ours. If the world wants what we have, they must buy it in a fair trade so that we can use the proceeds to build ourselves new cities, new universities, new infrastructure, new industries, and new programmes that will lift our people out of poverty and meet the needs of the most vulnerable among us, including people with disabilities.
“With the resources we have, we refuse to be anyone’s beggar, and with the unity we have, we must refuse to let anyone steal from us or use us to steal from our own people or each other. The plunder that we have allowed the West to conduct here in the DRC is a sin we need to repent of, resolve, and refuse to see repeated anywhere else in our region. So let’s show and tell the world with one voice that Africa is open for business, but it is not for sale,” said Mr Chakwera.
“Our collaboration in repelling outbreaks of conflict in pockets of our region, and our strengthening of ties of member states will usher in a new era of solidarity and brotherhood. We are adding value to those who preceded us.
“It takes only Africans to build the African continent and no foreigners will develop the continent. When they give us money it cannot help us build our roads, and in the past, they have only fuelled tensions.”
The summit also observed a moment of silence to remember late Sadc leaders like Dr Kaunda and former Angolan President Eduardo Dos Santos.
Like President Mnangagwa, President Chakwera said the Sadc region is “open for business”.
“There is no one outside Africa who is coming to build Africa the way we want it to be built, not the Americans, not the Europeans, not the Asians.
“We must leverage our natural resources, which if we are not careful will be stolen by ‘forces’ from the East and the West,” he said.
As is often the case, there were groups that camped outside the conference venue to lend their support to President Mnangagwa as he carries Zimbabwe towards Vision 2030, to become an upper-middle-class economy.
In his speech, Sadc Executive Secretary Mr Elias Magosi said the region remains relevant and committed to regional development through the convergence of economies.
He however, decried cases of gender-based violence, specifically against girls and women as well as isolated cases of conflict in the region.
DRC President Felix Tshisekedi has since assumed the reins of the regional bloc that rotates on a yearly basis among the 16 member states.