Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma will do a victory lap at this week’s Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Maputo after her election as the SADC’s candidate to the chair of the AU Commission (AUC) last month.
She will be at the summit to help celebrate the AU’s election of its first woman and first Southern African to the continent’s top executive job. She will also help regional leaders deliberate about how to use the AUC chair to push the continent in a rational direction.
SA officials said this past week that with the capable Dlamini Zuma in the chair and with the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi out of the way, it was time to start integrating Africa purposefully, using SADC and the continent’s other regional economic communities as building blocks.
For a decade Gaddafi aggressively pursued a fast-track integration strategy, trying to bypass the regional bodies to establish directly a United States of Africa, with its own government, army and so on.
SA, under both former president Thabo Mbeki and current President Jacob Zuma, led strong resistance to Gaddafi, advocating instead the step-by-step approach.
A senior SA official said that to vindicate Dlamini Zuma’s election and to give credibility to a new push by her in the AUC chair for step-by-step integration, the SADC would have to get its own act together.
So the summit would try to close some gaps in the SADC free trade area as well as ensure the SADC standby force is properly functioning. It is intended to join with similar forces from Africa’s four other regions to form an African Standby Force. The SADC is ahead of most if not all other regions in establishing its force but also needs to make sure the force is ready for action.
The summit is also expected to adopt a master plan for building regional infrastructure to facilitate the freer flow of trade, which has been theoretically enabled by the free trade area (FTA) agreement. Poor infrastructure has been identified as one of the reasons why intra-SADC trade still represents little more than 10 percent of total trade by member states, despite the FTA.
Some controversy is expected at the summit over a proposal that the SADC’s deputy executive secretary Joao Caholo is expected to put to the leaders for the establishment of a regional development bank to finance the infrastructure master plan. SA’s Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) purports to fill this role already and intends to do so more comprehensively through the creation of an international division – to be headed by former intelligence chief Moe Shaik – which would channel funds from outside countries such as China into African development.
But other SADC countries regard the DBSA as an SA bank which therefore inevitably has an SA perspective and so want a genuinely regional alternative.
Another contentious issue is likely to be the future of the SADC Tribunal, which was set up to adjudicate disputes between SADC states but also between SADC citizens and their own governments.
SADC leaders effectively suspended it two years ago after it ruled in favour of white Zimbabwean farmers against President Robert Mugabe’s government over its seizure of their land.
Some SADC states want the tribunal reinstated with its original powers while others want it reduced to a body adjudicating only interstate disputes to avoid future cases like the one of the Zimbabwe farmers. Mozambique’s Justice Minister Benvinda Levy warned this past week at a meeting of her other SADC counterparts that any further delay in reinstating the tribunal would seriously damage the SADC’s reputation.
She said the SADC was obliged to continue defending the interests of “citizens who have appealed to the tribunal”, but not all SADC governments share her concern with the interests of their citizens.
The SADC leaders will also discuss three long-running political crises in SADC members states – Zimbabwe, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo. (DRC).
They are likely to accept Zuma’s plea that they endorse the draft constitution recently negotiated by the three parties in Zimbabwe’s unity government, overriding resistance from some hardliners in Mugabe’s Zanu-PF who believe the constitution would deprive the president of too much power.
Madagascar will probably present the SADC leaders with a dilemma. Last year they endorsed a road map which demanded that the country’s de facto leader, Andry Rajoelina, allow ousted President Marc Ravalomanana to return to his country “unconditionally” – thus enabling him to run as president again in forthcoming elections.
But SA, which is chairing the SADC negotiations on Madagascar, recently proposed that both should withdraw from the elections to solve the long-running dispute.