19 August 2017

Southern Africa: Mugabe, Wife Grace Set to Be in the Spotlight as SADC Summit Begins in Pretoria

Photo: Zimbabwe Independent
President Robert Mugabe and First Lady Grace Mugabe.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace are set to be in the spotlight during the 37th Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit this weekend in Pretoria following allegations by a model that Grace assaulted her.

However, the summit itself this weekend is likely to be more pedestrian, with issues like regional trade, integration and security on the agenda. Activists from the SADC Democracy Forum are also expected to protest in front of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, where the high-level summit is set to take place.

They say many member countries fail to respect human rights, the rule of law and democracy, as required by SADC's principles.

These include the Economic Freedom Fighters, labour federation Cosatu, the South African Communist Party, the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, the opposition People's United Democratic Movement from Swaziland, the Zimbabwe Communist Party, the Africa Diaspora Forum, the Congo Forum and the Young Communist League.

Opening ceremony

On Friday night the SADC Troika, consisting of Tanzania, Angola, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland, held a closed meeting during which they discussed peace and security issues.

The recent elections in Lesotho and the slow progress in implementing the SADC decisions, including reforms in the country's systems, topped the agenda of the Troika, while the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where elections should have been held in December last year, could also come up for discussion.

Heads of state as well as ministers of foreign affairs, defence, public security and state security of the countries involved, sit on the Troika.

The summit proper is set to kick off on Saturday, with an opening ceremony addressed by current SADC chair, Swaziland's King Mswati, where he will hand over the chairpersonship to President Jacob Zuma.

The newly-elected heads of state of Lesotho, Seychelles and Zambia will then deliver their maiden speeches, followed by a First Ladies' programme.

Regional integration

The rest of the summit, until the closing session late on Sunday afternoon, is set to happen behind closed doors. Besides peace and security, the heads of state will also be discussing issues such as intra-SADC trade, development and regional integration.

Plans mooted over a decade ago of a common currency are off the table, but regional integration is an issue that has been singled out as being a priority in terms of industrialisation, beneficiation and value addition in the region.

Trade between the countries in SADC make up only 17% of the region's total trade, while the aim is to up that to 50%.

Earlier in the week International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said the region took a decision to focus on industrialisation so that the region doesn't just export raw materials.

"We are a very unique region on the continent," she said. "We live in a very rich and mineral-endowed region, yet we have the poorest people. We want to turn that corner by focussing on beneficiation in each of our countries and by integrating our economies and skilling adequately our youthful population."

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