Welcome Address by Minister Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to the SADC Council of Ministers Meeting, Cape Town, 26 – 27 February 2009

Executive Secretary of SADC Dr Tomaz Salamao,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Your Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Senior officials and distinguished delegates
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen

It is indeed a great privilege and honour for me to welcome you all on behalf of our President and Chairperson of SADC, Kgalema Motlanthe, the Government and people of South Africa, as well as on my own behalf, to the City of Cape Town or the Mother City as it is popularly known.   We meet in a city rich in its cultural heritage, the home of the Khoi-San people. Cape Town is also one of the cities where the fruits of freedom were harvested in the shadows of the famous Table Mountain by prisoners of conscience banished to Robben Island. Lest we forget that Cape Town too is one of the 2010 FIFA World Cup host cities.  I hope you will take time off your busy schedule to visit the many delights this city offers.   

Let me also cease the opportunity to thank our senior officials and the SADC secretariat  for the sterling work they were engaged in over the past few days and I am certain that the fruits of their labour will enrich our deliberations.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

South Africa assumed the chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in August 2008 against the milieu of a number of important political developments least of all developments in Zimbabwe, Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the EPA negotiations and lately the situation in Madagascar.

As SADC we can today proudly state that we have played a major role in facilitating the political solution to the situation in Zimbabwe leading to the formation of an Inclusive Government in terms of the Global Political Agreement among the Zimbabwean political parties.

In this regard, we cannot but express our gratitude to the SADC Facilitator, Former President Thabo Mbeki and his team for the sterling work done in assisting the people of Zimbabwe to address their political challenges.

It is our view that the formation of an Inclusive Government has indeed paved the way for the people of Zimbabwe to begin the process of national reconciliation, economic recovery and reconstruction and development. As SADC and indeed the rest of the international community is to help the people of Zimbabwe in their endeavour to address their economic challenges as well as the humanitarian crisis facing their country. Accordingly, as the international community we must create an enabling environment for the Zimbabwean people to succeed by among others lifting the sanctions imposed on the country.

As SADC we will continue to work with the government and people of the Democratic Republic of Congo in their efforts to address the challenges that have arisen in the Eastern part of the country.

We will indeed continue to work with the government and people of Madagascar in their endeavour to address current challenges facing their country with a view to ensuring peace and stability reign in this country.  

As SADC, we cannot ignore the impact of the global financial and economic crisis facing the world. Indeed and unless urgent steps are taken to address the impact of these global crisis, the progress that our region has made over the years towards integration will be slowed down.

In this regard, SADC has to guard against complacency about the impact of the global financial crisis on our economies. In fact, the broader international economic environment for developing countries has deteriorated sharply, and since October 2008 the financial stresses have shifted rapidly towards our economies. The cost of external borrowing has risen considerably and capital inflows are reversing. Both currency and commodity markets have become extremely volatile, with the exchange rate depreciating at an alarming pace in several countries and prices of primary commodities tumbling. Export growth is decelerating and the current-account balances of many of countries have shifted back into a rising deficit. The challenges posed by the global financial situation require all of us to be more united in our resolve collectively to find ways to mitigate the effects thereof. 

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Our region also faces the potentially fragmentary impact of the Interim European Partnership Agreement (IEPA) on the integration agenda of SADC.

The question to be asked is whether the four sets of separate trade relations and regimes SADC member states have will enhance or complicate efforts to build a single trade regime within the region and between the region and the EU or other dynamic emerging economies. Equally important is to interrogate whether the developmental agenda of SADC is enhanced by the process.

As we gather here today to deliberate upon matters of regional importance let us do so mindful of the expectations of our people and the promises we have made to provide them with equal opportunities and full participation in the political , social and economic  processes in our countries,.

As a community of nations we have to work together in confronting various challenges such as those of political and socio-economic nature including the communicable and preventable diseases as well as epidemics such as malaria, cholera, tuberculosis, HIV and AIDS etc., elimination of barriers to trade and investment, stabilisation of unstable political situations in order to create a conducive environment for poverty alleviation and sustainable development.

I am reminded of the upcoming elections that will take place in some of our Member States during this year. 2009 will witness elections that will take place in Namibia, South Africa, Malawi, Angola, Botswana, Mozambique and Mauritius to mention but a few.   I am convinced that these elections will provide not only the countries concerned but also the SADC region with reason to celebrate our commitment to democracy, peace and good political and economic governance. 

As we conduct these elections let us live to the promises we have made to our people of ensuring their full participation in the political processes and observe the Principles and Guidelines Governing to ensure success of humanitarian assistance. 

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

We hope that the facilities that we have put at your disposal within our limited means will afford you all with an opportunity to proceed smoothly, produce the outcomes expected of us by our people as we strive to improve their lives. We also hope that the hospitality extended will be to your satisfaction.

May I, therefore, once again to welcome you to Cape Town and wish us all fruitful deliberations.

I thank you.

Issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs

Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

26 February 2009

 

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