Maputo — PRESIDENT Michael Sata has pledged Zambia's unwavering support and commitment towards the Southern African Development Community (SADC) integration agenda and called for African solutions to resolving the continent's problems.
Delivering his maiden speech at yesterday's colourful official opening of the 32nd ordinary SADC Summit here, President Sata emphasised Zambia's commitment to SADC affiliation.
"From the onset, I would like to reaffirm the commitment of my Government to Zambia´s membership of our regional body and I look forward to working closely with all of you dear brothers and sisters, as we strive towards fulfilling the SADC vision.
"As one of the founding members of SADC, I would like to assure you of Zambia´s continued solidarity, with regard to our region´s socio-economic aspirations.
"On a personal note, allow me to state that as one of the newest members of the SADC family, I will count on your experience and wisdom for guidance and support," Mr Sata said.
His maiden address at the SADC was characterised with charm as he punctuated his speech with humour amid laughter from the other Heads of State and delegates at the Joachim Chissano International Conference Centre.
Other maiden speeches were delivered by Malawi's Joyce Banda and Lesotho´s Prime Minister, Motsoahae Thabane.
Mr Sata, despite punctuating his speech with humour, was candid enough when he stressed that peace, stability and security were prerequisites for regional trade in the sub-Saharan area and Africa generally.
"Our region has experienced conflicts which have adversely affected trade amongst us. The challenges that some of our sister-countries in the region have faced are certainly not insurmountable for as long as we continue to engage in peaceful dialogue and seek African solutions for our African brothers and sisters," he said.
He called for the need to ensure early warning systems, saying those already in place should be strengthened and supported to minimise conflicts.
Through these mechanisms, a stable and secure environment at national, regional and eventually continental levels would be guaranteed.
The President expressed gratification that SADC had made a great deal of progress in integrating respective member economies and in promoting peace, democracy, good governance and observance of human rights.
He said the attainment of the SADC Free Trade Area in 2008 and the on-going preparations towards the establishment of a Customs Union were among the important milestones worth noting.
He paid tribute to other Heads of State and the SADC secretariat for contributing to the advancement of the integration agenda in the region, which was in line with the legacy and vision of SADCs founding fathers.
He said it was also vital for the current leadership to urgently address the liquidity challenges faced by SADC, as a recipe for harmonious economic development in the region.
"As we move towards deeper regional integration, our region is bound to face numerous challenges, the biggest of which is funding.
"These challenges and threats, however, are not overwhelming. We need to increase the level of resource commitment in order to match the expanding cooperation," Mr Sata said.
The Summit hailed the smooth transfer of power from the MMD to the Patriotic Front in last year's presidential and general elections.
The meeting also noted the calmness with which power transitioned to new Malawian President Banda, following the demise of her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika.
President Sata said the peaceful transition of power in Zambia reflected political maturity and the desire to maintain peace, tranquility and stability for national development.
"Zambia will, therefore, endeavour to uphold good governance and support policies that foster a good economic and political climate in the region," Mr Sata said.
Mr Sata hailed immediate past SADC chairperson Jose Eduardo Dos Santos for his work in guiding the affairs of the organisation over the last one year.
Earlier, MalawiÂÂ´s President Banda commended Mozambique for the sustained peace it had continued to enjoy.
She thanked SADC for its support during the period of bereavement after the death of President Mutharika.
She said Malawi had experienced acute socio-economic hurdles but that an economic recovery plan had been put in place and was now yielding positive results.
Lesotho´s Premier Motsoahae Thabane also shared concerns over conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe´s political affairs and the tiffs in Madagascar.
He called for the quick solution to the three countries' problems.
On Thursday evening, President Sata was part of the Troika meeting that sat to look at the conflicts in the three countries.
President Sata was accompanied to the Troika meeting by Foreign Affairs Minister, Given Lubinda; Commerce, Trade and Industry Minister, Bob Sichinga; Works, Supply, Transport and Communications Minister, Christopher Yaluma and Attorney-General, Mumba Malila.
Tanzania´s Jakaya Kikwete was also present during the meeting.
The meeting was chaired by South Africa´s Jacob Zuma and saw various differing parties attending the closed-door session which ended in the early hours of Friday.