Pretoria - The Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc will be taken to "greater heights" under the chairmanship of South African President Jacob Zuma, outgoing SADC chairman King Mswati III of Swaziland said on Saturday.
"We are confident that South Africa, under the leadership of President Zuma, will lead our organisation to greater heights. We are witness to his astute leadership which has uplifted the social and economic well-being of the people," Mswati said in his speech at the 37th SADC heads of state and government summit under way in Pretoria.
"We have been impressed by the tremendous development that has taken place in this country. We look forward to the president [Zuma] sharing his leadership experiences that will go a long way in helping countries in the region to attain a developed status. With everyone's support, I have no doubt that the new chair will run with the vision of our founding fathers with even great vigour."
Mswati appealed to regional leaders, most of whom were at the Pretoria summit, to support Zuma during the 12 months rotational tenure.
"We pledge our unfettered and unwavering support to you President Zuma. I know that you are poised to lead our regional community into our regional song, a rhythm that speaks of equity, inclusive growth, and prosperity for all," he said.
Mswati told delegates that the region continued to struggle with an insufficient energy supply, slowing down industrialisation.
"We are pleased that we have been able to host the investment forum which was held in the kingdom last month [July]. It played a pivotal role in bringing together the public and private sectors, as well as financial institutions," he said.
The monarch said the number of energy and water projects showcased, the problems identified, and the solutions agreed upon demonstrated the potential the region had.
"We have no doubt that the incoming chairperson will keep the momentum regarding our resolve to mobilise resources and finance our projects that will create a vibrant economic environment in our community," said Mswati.
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.
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.
In his acceptance speech earlier, Zuma said he was pleased to take over the reins of the regional bloc when it was peaceful and on an upward developmental trend.
“Today I am happy to say that our region shares many achievements, including the strengthening of good governance, consolidation of our democratic institutions, and the holding of regular elections. We congratulate the people of Lesotho for the peaceful election and we are wishing the people of Angola well on the elections scheduled for the 23rd August 2017.
“We are meeting under an environment that is stable as prosperity and development are inextricably linked to political and security stability,” Zuma said.