Welcome Statement of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, on the occasion of the Official Opening of the 28th SADC Ordinary Summit, Sandton Convention Centre, South Africa, 16th August 2008.

Your Majesty,
Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government,
Your Excellencies, Heads of Continental and International Organisations,
Your Excellencies, Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners,  
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Welcome to South Africa. The convening of the 28th SADC Ordinary Summit in South Africa is indeed a great honour and privilege for the Government and people of South Africa.

We are delighted to have you in our midst at this Summit, which, with the launch of the Free Trade Area and readmission of the Republic of Seychelles, marks yet another important step towards the deeper integration of our region.

It is indeed my pleasure to extend a very warm welcome to you, Your Majesty and Your Excellencies, your delegations, invited guests, members of the media and everyone who will clearly contribute towards the success of this Summit. I trust that you will find the arrangements put at your disposal conducive to successful deliberations and your personal comfort.

We are very happy indeed to welcome among us the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, His Excellency, Jean Ping, as well as the President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Donald Kaberuka. Welcome too to the UN Under-Secretary and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Mr. Abdoullie Janneh.

Warm welcome to our sister regional organisations and other important partners whose abiding interest is to see the development and prosperity of our continent.

For all of us in the SADC family, this Organisation is a critical principal vehicle for peace, stability and security and an important catalyst in our efforts for regional integration, harmonisation of policies and a central platform through which we should continue to give expression to the vision of an African Renaissance as well as the implementation of an African Agenda that will undoubtedly help us realise our central objective of the regeneration of our continent.

As we know, we will, during this Summit, launch the SADC Free Trade Area, which came into force in January this year. The appropriate way to celebrate this achievement is to commit ourselves to ensuring its success, so that through this important step the citizens of this region would further move towards the attainment of a life free of hunger, free of unemployment, free of disease and free of underdevelopment.  

Clearly, Your Majesty and Your Excellencies, without SADC we will never achieve regional development and true integration. Without SADC our countries will never realise their true economic and developmental potential.

Accordingly, as the leadership and people of Southern Africa, it is important at all times to be conscious of the fact that whatever we do, or don’t do, we will either swim or sink together.  

I take this opportunity to thank the SADC Secretariat under the leadership of our Executive Secretary, Dr. Tomaz Augusto Salamao. In particular, we appreciate the work that the Secretariat is doing, including the preparations for this Summit. I trust that we have all familiarised ourselves with the briefing documents that have been made available.

Accordingly, it is important that this Summit takes forward all the matters raised both in these documents as well as in the Introductory Statement of the Executive Secretary, so that we emerge with a clear programme of action around all the challenges facing our region.

Indeed, Your Majesty and Your Excellencies, I trust that this 28th SADC Ordinary Summit will, as in the past, concentrate our minds on the primary task facing this region, which is to confront poverty and underdevelopment.
With these brief words, I once again welcome you to the Republic of South Africa, confident that our deliberations will take us further towards a goal of a better life for all the people in the SADC region.

Thank you.



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