Pretoria - The 37th ordinary SADC summit of heads of state and government in Pretoria on Sunday bid farewell to two outgoing regional leaders - presidents José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola and Ian Khama of Botswana - who are stepping down at the end of their terms in office.
In his closing remarks, incoming Southern African Development Community (SADC) chairman President Jacob Zuma told delegates that the regional bloc would miss the two leaders.
"During our discussions, we bid farewell to President Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola who is retiring. President Dos Santos has been one of the key pillars of SADC. We thus take this opportunity to thank him profoundly for his contribution to the liberation struggle in the region and his outstanding contribution to SADC," said Zuma.
"We wish him good health in his retirement. We also wish to take this opportunity to wish the people of Angola peaceful elections."
Zuma also paid tribute to Khama, who will be leaving office in April 2018.
"In this regard, we thank President Khama for his active involvement and leadership in SADC. We will always remember his leadership of SADC during 2015/2016. We hope that even during his retirement he will continue to contribute to the work of SADC," he said.
Zuma said that during the summit the heads of state reviewed the political and security situation in the region.
"We noted with appreciation the relative political and security tranquillity in the region with notable challenges in the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"On Lesotho, we have welcomed the commitment of the new government to implement SADC decisions. In this regard we have urged them to submit a clear time-bound roadmap on the implementation of all SADC decisions and commission of inquiry by November 2017," he said.
Regarding the DRC, Zuma said the summit had noted that it might not be possible for the country to hold elections in December 2017, "due to a number of challenges currently receiving attention".
"Accordingly, the summit has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission of the DRC to publicise the revised electoral calendar. The summit has also approved the appointment of a SADC special envoy to the DRC in the level of a former head of state. There are consultations aimed at finalising this matter.
"The heads of state and government have reiterated their collective resolve to promote peace and stability since this is a precursor to economic growth and development," he said.
The Pretoria summit was hosted under the theme “Partnering with the private sector in developing industry and regional value chains”.
Zuma said the theme was aimed at ensuring continuity and placed particular focus on implementation of the SADC industrialisation strategy and roadmap to accelerate economic growth and development in the region.
In a landmark resolution, the summit admitted the Union of Comoros into the SADC fold, bringing the membership of the regional bloc to 16.
Zuma appealed to all SADC members to continually work on improving the lives of their citizenry, ensuring that benefits from natural resources, which were abundant in the region, filtered down to all communities.
"Africa is the richest continent with the poorest people. Our heritage and endowment must be used to drive economic development for the benefit of all Africa’s citizens.
"Therefore, the discovery and exploitation of natural gas within our region should constitute the backbone of our regional economic integration. As such, summit directed the secretariat to facilitate the establishment of a regional natural gas committee to promote the inclusion of gas in the regional energy mix and in the promotion of industrial development," he said.
Numerous SADC heads of state and government, including Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane, Namibian President Hage Geingob, Botswana President Ian Khama, Zambian President Edgar Lungu, and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe were in attendance at the summit. Some of the leaders were, however, absent on Sunday, the final day of the summit.
The predecessor of the SADC, the Southern African Development Co-ordination Community (SADCC) was established in 1980 in Lusaka, Zambia. In 1992, regional heads of state agreed to transform the SADCC into the SADC with a special focus on regional integration.
African News Agency