19 July 2014

Southern Africa: Mugabe SADC Chairmanship Toxic for Region - Group

Photo: Kounosu/Wikipedia
Arrivals of Victoria Falls Airport (file photo).

THE Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition has warned that SADC risks exporting into the region Zimbabwe's economic and socio-political problems if President Robert Mugabe takes over as chairman of the bloc.

Mugabe was elected vice-chairman of SADC in August last year and is set to take over the chairmanship from Malawian President Peter Mutharika in August.

"What this means is that for the next three years Zimbabwe will be playing an important role in the leadership of Sadc," said foreign affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi last week.

Government spin doctors have already indicated Zimbabwe would use the summit to give a regional resonance to Mugabe's black economic empowerment policies which include land reforms and the forced take-over of majority stakes in foreign companies.

Critics say although commendable in principle, the radical way Harare has implemented its empowerment agenda has been ruinous for the country with the land reforms credited with helping trigger the decade-long recession which saw millions of Zimbabweans fleeing to countries such as Botswana and South Africa.

Opposition parties also argue that Mugabe's indigenisation programme, which forces foreign companies to cede 51 percent of the local operations to black Zimbabweans, is forcing international capital to stay clear of the struggling country.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokesman Mfundo Mlilo told NewZimbabwe.com that there "is a danger that there might be an exportation of the Zimbabwean crisis to other SADC countries".

"We are raising a red flag to the challenges that we are seeing in Zimbabwe which can be easily exported to other countries if SADC does not check the leadership of President Mugabe," Mlilo said.

He also said SADC had unfinished business in the country after playing midwife to the coalition government which was formed following the violent and inconclusive elections of 2008.

The unity administration was, among other things, charged with preparing the ground for credible fresh elections but the opposition has rejected the outcome of the 2013 ballot won comprehensively by Mugabe, saying the poll was fraudulent.

Said Mlilo: "We are also putting on the table (a proposal) to SADC that you hand-held us during the tenure of the inclusive government and now that it has ended there are still key questions around the implementation of the constitution, the social crisis, the economic crisis and we think SADC has a key role to play in assisting Zimbabweans," said Mlilo.

Critics have also questioned the rational of Harare offering to host the summit at a time the government admits to be battling with serious financial problems which have seen it struggle to pay civil servants.

Mumbengegwi however, said the government was ready to host the event, adding private sector organisations would help with the necessary funding.

"Everything is on course and the corporate sector has been very cooperative and supportive so far in the preparation," said the minister.

Mugabe's assumption of the SADC chairmanship will be confirmed at the regional bloc's 34th's Heads of State and Governments Summit to be held in Victoria Falls next month.

The summit will be held under the theme: SADC Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region's Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development Through Beneficiation and Value Addition.

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