Transcript Copy: Briefing by South African Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and the SADC Executive Secretary Thomas Salomao on the conclusion of the SADC Council of Ministers, Sandton, 15 August 2008

Comments by Minister Dlamini Zuma

Ladies and gentlemen of the media. It is my pleasure to welcome you to this Media Briefing on the outcome of the deliberations of the SADC Council of Ministers meeting which took place here yesterday and today and which, I must say, has been very fruitful in addressing the pertinent issues on regional integration.

The SADC Council of Ministers met at a time when our region is facing enormous, but not insurmountable, challenges in the political and socio-economic spheres. I wish, however, to state right from the outset that SADC Member States are ready and determined to respond to these challenges with the necessary zeal and vigor.

While preparing the agenda and work programme for the 28th summit of the SADC Heads of State and Government taking place from tomorrow and Sunday, the Council of Ministers considered and made decisions on a number of issues facing our region.

These included the Report on the Status of Finances of the SADC Secretariat, where Council requested Member States to approve additional budget for the operationalisation of the Secretariat as well as make additional pledges to meet the financing shortfall of US$ 676, 500 towards the extension of the Hashim Mbita Project’s activities beyond the SADC Region. The Hashim Mbita Project is aimed at recording the histories of the political emancipation of our region.
Council also commended International Cooperating Partners and development partners in the region for their financial support provided towards SADC programmes.

Council approved the Implementation Plan of the SADC Declaration on Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development that was adopted and signed at the SADC International Conference on Poverty and Development Summit held in Mauritius in April 2008. These include the establishment of a Regional Observatory and setting up of a Task Force on Food Security.

As regards food security in the region, Council urged Member States with cereal surplus, such as Malawi, South Africa and Zambia to encourage regional sales in order to enhance regional food security. Council also urged Member States to improve access to food in the region through, amongst others, establishing appropriate, effective and well targeted social safety nets programmes and by promoting production of appropriate drought resistant food crops such as cassava, sorghum and millet in order to reduce dependency on maize.

Council also urged Member States to increase budgetary allocation to of their national budgets to provide for adequate food provision as well as to implement land reforms programmes, particularly those aimed at redressing unequal land ownership, land use regulations and insecure land tenure systems.
I am happy to say that Council has resolved to recommend to Summit, the readmission of Seychelles into SADC family of nations.

On diminished power supply capacity in the region, Council adopted measures to be taken, including urging Member States to expeditiously implement the regional priority power generation transmission and inter-connector projects assisted by the Secretariat and the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP). Council also recommended migration by Member States to cost-effective tariffs on the basis of the agreed regional framework in order to attract Independent Power Producers to the region.

The Council of Ministers urged Member States to fully implement the SADC Protocol on Health and commemorate the SADC Healthy Lifestyles Day on the last Friday of February every year.  This is in view of the increasing burden posed by non-communicable diseases which include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, alcoholism, trauma and injuries, tobacco related diseases and cancer.

Council also approved several legal instruments and recommended them to Summit for signature as follows:

  • Draft Agreement Amending the Treaty to provide a legal framework for replacing the Intergrated Committee of Ministers (ICM) with Sectoral and Cluster Ministerial Committees and creating two positions of Deputy Executive Secretaries. The ultimate aim of these changes is to make the operations of our organisation more effective;
  • The Draft Protocol on Gender and Development has been approved for a recommendation has been made to Summit for its signature. This Protocol calls for changes and goals that include gender equality and equity in National Constitutions, the repeal of all discriminatory laws and work towards the continental goal of fifty percent women in political and decision making positions by 2015.  It also includes the regional goals in terms of constitutional and legal rights, governance, education and training, productive resources and employment, gender based violence, health and HIV and AIDS, peace building and conflict resolution and the media;
  • Draft Agreement Amending Articles 20 of the Protocol on Trade that sets out the rules on emergency temporary safeguard measures to enable a Member State to protect its local industry in the event of serious threat or injury from products imported from another Member State;
  • Agreement Amending Article 6 of the Protocol on the Tribunal and the Rules of Procedure thereof which sets out the rules through which the Secretariat will proceed to draw the lot for choosing the Members of the SADC Tribunal whose tenure should expire in three years;
  • Protocol on Science, Technology and Innovation sets the legal framework aimed at promoting cooperation among member States in the fields of science, technology and innovation.

Council also adopted the Resolution on the New Economic Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD) Broadband Infrastructure Network that seeks to support the implementation of the universal access to Information Communication Technology (ICT) in the region.

This year, we are commemorating the SADC Day, August 17 2008 in style because we will be launching the SADC Free Trade Area, (FTA), the first of our deeper regional economic integration milestones on our regional integration agenda. The SADC FTA will ushers in new opportunities for the people of our region to take meaningful strides in the road to full regional integration.

We are confident that as SADC becomes stronger with deeper roots of regional integration spreading regionally, our people will further be economically and politically empowered.

Last but not least, let me thank you all media practitioners for you support in empowering the citizens of our region with information and knowledge sharing. I wish to thank the South African Broadcasting Association (SABC) for facilitating information access.

I am thanking SABC because they are making available to the whole SADC region the FTA launch, the official opening and closing ceremonies of Summit over the next two days.
I thank you

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Question: I would like to ask whether Mr Mugabe is confirmed to attend the Summit and if so in what capacity will he come here given that the June 27 run-off poll was declared by SADC observers to be neither free nor fair?

Answer: Dr Salomao – In which capacity President Mugabe is attending the Summit. You are aware that President Robert Mugabe was invited by the Chair and also political parties were invited by the Chairperson of the organ and they are here. Our view is that at one point we need to give a chance to all parties to make their inputs. What is important for SADC is really to solve the problem in Zimbabwe on an agreeable settlement for all parties. So yes President Mugabe is here; Tshvangirai was invited to make inputs; and Professor Mutambara was invited. What we are doing really is to help and assist Zimbabwe to address the problem. That is what is important for SADC.

Question: The question is directed at the SADC Executive Secretary. I want to know what has happened to the SADC revival plan for the Zimbabwe economy, which was discussed at the last summit?

Answer: Dr Salomao: On the economic plan (for Zimbabwe) you may recall that the decision taken by the Extraordinary Summit was that “lets try to address the political agenda” and SADC is consistent in trying to assist Zimbabwe to come up with the solution to overcome the difficulties they are facing. So we think that if at any point there is a conclusion to this process we believe that we can proceed with the other item to assist Zimbabwe overcome the difficulties and for the reconstruction of Zimbabwe.

Question: Ian Khama, the President of Botswana has said today that he won’t be coming in protest of Mr Mugabe’s presence. He considers it illegitimate. My understanding is that this is unprecedented in the history of SADC that a head of state should boycott a meeting like this. Are you embarrassed about this and how do you feel Minister? What do you feel this says about the efforts of President Mbeki as mediator?

Answer: Minister Dlamini Zuma – Regarding the Botswana President not attending. First of all Botswana is a sovereign state and it has the right to take whatever decision that it deems fit. Secondly, he was not coming to a bilateral meeting to South Africa so it wouldn’t embarrass me, it is about SADC. It is really the fact that he is not attending SADC. The meeting of SADC happens to be here but it could have been anywhere else. But it is in the nature of multilateral organizations. In multilateral organizations people attend at whatever level they want to attend that. The work will continue and decisions will be taken and they will bind everybody who belongs to that organization.

Dr Salomao – Just to complement and add some inputs. Starting from the absence of President Khama, and I believe sovereign decision of a SADC member state. But let me remind the house that we are an organization of 1 member states and probably by Sunday, if Summit endorses the decision of Council, the family will compose of 15 member states. According to our rules for a meeting to proceed we need two thirds, that is the rule in SADC. So far we have 13 member states who have confirmed that they will be attending. So we have the quorum to proceed but we respect the decision taken by the President of Botswana. That is our position.

Question: Minister from the SADC side do you have any comment regarding the fact that the leader of the opposition in Zimbabwe together with his delegation, was briefly detained yesterday for a brief period; they were not allowed to travel to South Africa to come and attend this Summit. Can you give us a comment from SADC side on that issue?

Answer: Minister Dlamini Zuma – Obviously the detention of the leader of the opposition, Mr Tshvangirai will not be acceptable to us. First of all he was coming to South Africa in the context of trying to resolve the Zimbabwean situation.

Question: Minister yesterday you spoke strongly about unity and cohesion of SADC, I would like to find out what the absence of Botswana means to that unity of SADC? Secondly I would like to find out if Tshvangirai and Mutambara are also going to speak at the Troika meeting.

Question: If, as it seems, there is no agreement in Zimbabwe and there is no power sharing arrangement, to what extent would that damage the cohesion and most importantly the reputation of SADC given that it is inviting someone who is flouting its basic principles?

Answer: Minister Dlamini Zuma – The cohesion and reputation of SADC, well I don’t know where is your cut off point, we have not come to any cut off point. It is work in progress; discussions are taking place; if there is no agreement today there will still be discussions tomorrow until a solution is found. So the reputation is that SADC is hard at work trying to solve its own problems and I think that is a good reputation if you want to solve your own problems and not leave to other people.

The cohesion of SADC – well up to now SADC has agreed to deal with this matter in the way that it is being dealt with. So until SADC takes a different decision or there are two different decisions by SADC – which is not possible right now, there is more focus that this matter must be resolved and the organ is going to be engaging and giving new direction on this matter.

The unity of SADC was important in the past; is important today and will be important tomorrow – it will always be important. The fact that President Khama is not coming does not diminish the importance of unity, if anything it makes it more important.

Dr Salomao: I would like to reiterate that we are here for the Ordinary Summit of SADC and I repeat that SADC is a family of 14 member states including Zumbabwe. When you have 13 Heads of State and Government here you cannot undermine their presence.

So just to indicate that the unity is there; coherence is there; and when we have a Head of State who decided that he would not attend, that is fine but this is a summit to deal with an agenda that we have before us, leading to build a community. With that you face political challenges; you face economic challenges and you face social challenges but this is a process. And when we face difficulties we sit; you talk until we sort the problems.

Question: Could you also clarify the status of the three party leaders from Zimbabwe. Will all three of them be in attendance for the duration of the Summit? Will they be regarded as equals? Or what will the different statuses be? Also what is the current status of the talks between the parties?

Answer: Minister Dlamini Zuma – The current status is that the talks are going on and until they are finalized it is work in progress and that answer also goes to the question of power sharing. Of course there isn’t power sharing right now but the talks are still going on. How long did it take for the talks between the Irish? It took years. So the talks are still going on until we find a solution they will continue to go on because SADC hasn’t got the luxury of walking away from Zimbabwe. It is a country in our region so we have to deal with it until we find a solution.

Question: Can you confirm if Morgan Tshvangirai will be addressing Foreign Ministers later this evening?

Answer: Minister Dlamini Zuma – Mr Tshvangirai will not be addressing the Foreign Ministers this evening. He will be attending and addressing the meeting of the Summit of the organ, which means Heads of State and Government. This evening there will be a meeting of the organ so they will be talking to that Summit because it is the organ that is dealing with that situation in Zimbabwe.

Issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001
16 August 2008

 

 

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