Statement by His Excellency Mr Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa, on the occasion of the Official Opening of the 29th SADC Ordinary Summit; Kinshasa; Democratic Republic of Congo, 7 September 2009
Your Majesty, King Mswati III, Chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation,
Your Excellency President Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Our Gracious Host, and Deputy Chairperson of SADC,
Your Excellencies Heads of State and Government and Esteemed First Spouses.
Your Excellency Dr Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission;
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Honourable Ministers and Members of the SADC Council of Ministers,
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Your Excellency Dr Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank;
Your Excellency, the SADC Secretariat Executive Secretary, Dr Tomaz Augusto Salomão,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my honour and privilege to address you on the occasion of the Official Opening of the 29th Ordinary Summit of the SADC Heads of State and Government here in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Allow me, Your Excellencies, to express our gratitude and appreciation for the warm welcome and hospitality that the Government and the People of the Democratic Republic of Congo have extended to us.
My particular appreciation goes to President Joseph Kabila, our host.
He was determined to host this Summit in Kinshasa, despite the enormous challenges facing this country, related to reconciliation and reconstruction of one of the largest countries of our continent.
I wish to recognise and appreciate the presence of many distinguished invited guests and dignitaries.
I also wish to commend our Council of Ministers, the Executive Secretary of SADC and the Senior Officials for having ably prepared our agenda in the last few days. This enables us to deliberate on important and strategic matters relevant to our region.
The convening of the 29th Ordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government is a celebration and vindication of the commitment by eight valiant independent Southern African States known as the “Frontline States”, to set the Region on the path of freedom, dignity and prosperity.
In view of the challenges experienced by the region at that time, the then ‘Front-line’ States prioritised the eradication of colonialism and racism.
They united against the destabilisation of countries supporting the people’s liberation movements by apartheid South Africa.
SADC was built on solid political foundation and can therefore not fail in its mission.
I have no doubt that we concur that SADC has achieved noteworthy results since its formation. We must now build on these achievements.
The same spirit that captured our energies in our struggles for national liberation now needs to be unleashed to win a more decisive battle against the scourges of poverty and underdevelopment.
We, the present membership of sixteen States, need to draw from the bravery of our forebears and with the same commitment of unity.
We must prioritise stability, democracy and socio-economic development.
Major current challenges confronting the region, Africa and the developing world at large are the global economic crisis and the effects of global climate change.
It is acknowledged that the current global financial and economic crisis and the climate change impact harshly on developing countries.
The irony is that SADC member states, together with all other developing countries, played no role in precipitating this crisis.
This global crisis could not have come at a worse time for Africa. It came just as we were turning the corner towards prosperity.
Working together we must ensure that this crisis does not undo the great strides made in the region such as the deepening of democracy, the improvement of trade, economic and investment incentives and the enhancement of the lives of SADC citizens.
More importantly, it must not result in the further marginalisation of Africa and accentuate the potential for political and social instability in the region.
The global economic crisis underscores the need for a reform of the international financial institutions.
They need to reflect the changing economic realities in the global economy, be more responsive to future challenges and give emerging and developing economies a greater say.
Climate change will impose an additional burden on our societies and present real challenges to development and stability.
We face the real threat of reduced water availability resulting in low crop yield, food insecurity, disease prevalence and tension between different sectors within communities.
SADC member states should not underestimate the importance of their role in promoting a prosperous, competitive SADC in the global arena.
Individually, SADC members have little prospect of weathering the current economic turmoil.
However, if we harness our collective strength behind the SADC banner, we increase the prospect of achieving our goals of greater human orientated development of the region as well as improving the lives of the people of SADC.
We, members of SADC need to take cognisance of the emerging new geo-economic architecture.
We must recognise that whilst it is important to consolidate the beneficial relationship with the North and the European Community in particular, we must hasten the development of viable partnerships with new emerging players of the South.
The SADC Treaty of 1992 defined the main pillars of our regional integration strategy which more recently informed the development and adoption of the Regional indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) as well as the Strategic Indicative Plan of the Organ (SIPO).
These two instruments outline our main milestones towards deeper integration, development, sustainable development as well as durable peace and security.
You will recall, Your Excellencies that, in August 2006, in Mohale Dam, Kingdom of Lesotho, the Summit decided to accelerate the SADC Regional Economic Integration.
To that effect, the Extraordinary Summit of October 2006 established a Ministerial Task Force on Regional Economic Integration. Since then much progress has been made.
Among other things, the SADC Free Trade Area was launched in Sandton, South Africa in August 2008. The challenge is to ensure that the SADC FTA is fully consolidated. I am certain that this matter and other milestones of our regional integration will be deliberated upon during this Summit.
The quest for lasting peace, stability and democracy remains a priority for SADC. At the time South Africa assumed the Chair of SADC from Zambia, the political situation in our region was generally peaceful and stable in most member States.
However, the region was faced with challenges in a few member States, most notably the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Kingdom of Lesotho, and in the Republic of Zimbabwe.
I am pleased to report that our regional cooperation efforts through the Organ on Defence, Peace and Security Cooperation assisted significantly in negotiating and finding ways to restore peace in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This created the necessary conditions for that region to devote its efforts to re-build the economy and fully integrate it in the overall country’s development efforts.
Our Organisation continues to play a central and positive role in the significant improvement of the political landscape of Zimbabwe. These positive developments include the historic signing of the Global Political Agreement and the subsequent formation of the Inclusive Government.
These achievements signalled to the people of Zimbabwe, the region and the world, that the Zimbabwean political leadership was ready to collectively tackle the political and the socio-economic challenges facing that country.
We are all encouraged by how the three parties put their differences aside. Significant progress has been made under the auspices of the Inclusive Government.
Just as SADC has stood with the people of Zimbabwe in the search for a solution to the challenges facing the country, it remains committed to working to encourage further progress.
We urge all parties to remove any obstacles to the implementation of the agreement.
SADC has continued to pay attention to political developments in Lesotho by engaging the political parties and encouraging them to pursue and adhere to constitutional means to address any prevailing differences.
In March 2009 Madagascar was plunged into a political turmoil caused by the unconstitutional change of Government perpetrated by elements of the military associated with certain political parties.
The Region’s displeasure of unconstitutional change of government is demonstrated by the suspension of this Member State from SADC until the restoration of constitutional normalcy.
As in the other cases, SADC has taken a lead in searching for a political solution for this Member State. Since March 2009, the SADC Summit met twice to examine the situation in Madagascar.
At its meeting, in Sandton, South Africa, SADC Summit appointed H.E. Former President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique to facilitate the dialogue amongst the Malagasy people in coordination with other international Organizations, such as the African Union, the United Nations and the Francofonia.
In the course of this Summit we will receive a report on whatever progress would have been registered.
Allow me, Your Excellencies to pay tribute to Former President Joaquim Chissano for the efforts he is exerting to resolve the political impasse in Madagascar, supported by his capable facilitation team.
I am certain that his wisdom, skill and passion for peace and development will prevail.
We congratulate the people of Angola, South Africa and Malawi for their successful elections held recently. The enduring images of long queues of voters braving the scorching sun to cast their votes is proof that SADC has much to celebrate for her achievements in her relentless quest to deepen democracy.
It is the linking of peace and stability with democracy and good governance that establishes the vital connections to sustained and equitable growth and development in the region.
It is our belief that SADC member states base their efforts on the fundamental principle on which the Organisation of African Unity and later the African Union were founded – namely, the unity of the African peoples and the unity of the Continent.
This fundamental principle binds us all, even on those issues on which we still need to find agreement.
In this regard we welcome the process of harmonising the programmes of SADC, COMESA and the East African Community.
We need, as member States, to take ownership of the process. We must ensure that intra-Africa trade receives the utmost priority.
The infrastructure in the Regional Economic Communities is developed to sustain our ambition for integration and human orientated development.
We in SADC pledge that we will never betray the cause of advancing the African agenda and promoting African unity, and that we will never be found wanting in executing these responsibilities.
Our strategy for regional integration does not only concentrate on politics, defence and security. In fact the latter are only enablers for regional integration, economic and social development.
All indicators on the ground suggest that the ongoing process of deepening our integration is set to facilitate more and more liberalised trade amongst SADC Member States.
The expectation is that up to eighty-five percent of intra SADC trade in goods would be duty free.
It therefore became evident that all non tariff barriers to trade, in particular corridor infrastructure is to be accorded priority.
It was on this premise, Your Excellencies, that South Africa worked closely with the Secretariat to scale up implementation of some priority projects during the last year.
The recent escalation of food prices against a backdrop of high increases in energy cost have posed threats of major food insecurity and require a global consensus for a way forward.
It is gratifying to note that in SADC we have long designed cooperation programmes in the area of Food Security which enable us to minimise the negative impact of the global economic crisis on our people and region.
In this regard, the implementation of the Dar Es Salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security is of critical importance.
Our programme to address the issue of gender imbalance in all spheres of society is proceeding and recent statistics from the regional synthesis reports suggest that we are making steady progress.
However, concerted efforts need to be made by many of our Member States if meaningful progress is to be realised. The signing of the Protocol on Gender will no doubt underpin the effective implementation of this process.
Given the progress our region has made with regard to deepening regional integration, our focus should also turn to the attainment of the African Economic Community as espoused by the Constitutive Act of the African Union and the Abuja Treaty and Lagos Plan of Action.
The successful convening of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Summit in Kampala last year, and its milestone decision of working towards the establishment of a grand FTA, have further promoted the integration of East and Southern African States, and brought total African integration a step closer.
During the coming year, two countries within SADC will host two important sporting spectacles, namely the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola and the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
These events offer us a magnificent opportunity to showcase the splendour, beauty and dynamism of the SADC region to a global audience. The glory of successful tournaments will not only be that of the hosting nations but that of the SADC region.
As South Africa we would like to extend our sincere appreciation to member States for the support we received as Chairperson of SADC.
Important to note is the fact that during our chairpersonship, three Presidents presided over SADC matters.
As your excellencies would recall during the period of our Chairship, three Presidents of our country assumed this role.
The first was President Mbeki, then President Motlanthe and I have also had the honour of presiding just a few months before handing over to the DRC.
What we have learnt from this process is the importance of a leadership that respects institutions of democracy and the will of the people.
It is our belief that despite these changes our country still managed to discharge its responsibilities to SADC.
It has been an honour to make our modest contribution as Chair.
I have no doubt that the excellent support you rendered shall be accorded to our next Chair, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I look forward to constructive deliberations during this Summit as we seek to realise the vision of SADC, inspired by the historic legacy of Patrice Lumumba, one of the greatest sons of our Continent.
May we continue to work together in unity, to do more for and with the people of SADC.
I Thank You.
Issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation
Private Bag x152
07 September 2009