AFRICANGLOBE – Zimbabwe is emerging from years of a myriad of challenges mainly caused by illegal sanctions imposed by Western countries as punishment for embarking on the land reform programme.
No one would have imagined that after so many years of being persecuted by Western countries and being deliberately segregated against, the country would survive the onslaught and still stand up as a powerful member of Sadc and the African Union.
A visitor to Zimbabwe six years ago would be forgiven for believing in miracles if he returned today and witnessed the peace and stability in the country. Beyond its borders, Zimbabwe is reclaiming its rightful place on the international scene with much vigour.
The 34th Sadc Summit to be hosted in Victoria Falls in a few weeks from now will be a giant step by the country to demonstrate its resilience in the face of adversity.
The summit will put Zimbabwe at the helm of the regional body with President Mugabe as its chairman.
That alone is evidence of how the region has never lost confidence in Zimbabwe and the leadership of President Mugabe, despite attempts by Britain and its allies to influence them to turn their back on the country.
Zimbabwe has much to offer to the region, especially in driving programmes to economically empower marginalised populations. Its central location also makes it the hub of regional trade.
As the country takes over the chairmanship of the regional body from Malawi on August 17, many will be keen to figure out how Sadc will fare under Zimbabwe’s leadership.
While the handover-takeover of the chairmanship will be a formality characteristic of all such occasions, it is the programme of action going forward that many in the region will be eager to hear, especially among the poor.
The event will mark a transfer of leadership that many have been waiting for, mainly because of the pro-poor policies deliberately pursued by Zimbabwe to empower its people.
You cannot get it wrong in the developing world when you push programmes that are aimed at uplifting the majority, especially when you have a history of colonial discrimination and domination behind you.
This means that from August 17, every move by Zimbabwe will be watched by millions of people from the region and beyond who are itching for a voice to speak on their behalf on issues of empowerment and resource nationalism.
Not that other leaders in the region have not been advocating for the empowerment of their populace.
They have been doing so, but not with such vigour as Zimbabwe has been doing it for the last 15 years, especially on being consistent in pushing the empowerment agenda forward.
That agenda has been anchored on the land reform programme which benefited hundreds of Zimbabweans and the current indigenisation and economic empowerment that has resulted in the people claiming a stake in major corporates. Land reform and economic empowerment are not peculiar to Zimbabwe.
Land is an emotive issue in the entire Southern Africa where several wars were fought as people sought to reclaim their birthright that had been stolen by colonialists.
Zimbabwe’s stance on land and economic empowerment will make many in the region sit up and notice when the country takes over the mantle to lead Sadc.
This also explains why some are already doing permutations on how Sadc will conduct its business on a higher level with Zimbabwe at the helm. It will be time when Zimbabwe ceases to speak for itself, but for the region. So, every word uttered by the Zimbabwean Government will be weighed against the expectations of the majority in Sadc.
What is also important about the Sadc Summit being held in Zimbabwe is that it is an endorsement of Zimbabwe’s system, both politically and economically.
If Zimbabwe was pursuing anti-democratic systems, even if it were its turn to host the summit, leaders in the region would have resisted and taken the summit elsewhere.
What makes the summit special to Zimbabwe is that it is coming a year after the holding of the harmonised elections in July last year, which were endorsed by Sadc and other international bodies as free and fair following a resounding ZANU-PF victory.
Zimbabwe’s hosting of the summit is, therefore, a further approval from the region and it will open up new avenues of regional integration and co-operation.
The interest in the summit has already been heightened, with a record more than 700 delegates expected to descend on Victoria Falls starting from as early as August 5.
Foreign Affairs officials indicate that all 15 Heads of State and Governments in Sadc could attend, including five former presidents and at least 11 specially invited guests.
The onus is now on the summit’s National Steering Committee to work diligently to ensure that the region and the world see that Zimbabwe deserved to host the high level summit.
The Council of Ministers meeting will be held from August 14 – August 15 and there will be a meeting of the Standing Committee of Senior Officials from August 10-12 as well as a meeting of the Finance Sub-Committee between August 7 and 8.
Zimbabwe will relinquish the chairmanship at the next summit next year, but will remain a member of the equally important Sadc Troika until August 2018.
Last year, the Sadc Summit was held in Malawi and came up with various resolutions that were expected to move the region forward.
Sadc started from humble beginnings as the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference (Sadcc) in 1980 and was established with the participation of nine countries – Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The regional body has since grown to include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, South Africa, Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar.
Sadc has not departed from its original objectives, which are still as relevant today as they were when it was founded:
Achieve development and economic growth, alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the people of Southern Africa and support the socially disadvantaged through regional integration;
Evolve common political values, systems and institutions;
Promote and defend peace and security;
Promote self-sustaining development on the basis of collective self-reliance and the interdependence of Member States;
Achieve complementarity between national and regional strategies and programmes;
Promote and maximise productive employment and utilisation of resources of the region;
Achieve sustainable utilisation of natural resources and effective protection of the environment;
Strengthen and consolidate the long-standing historical, social and cultural affinities and links among the people of the region.
By: Lovemore Chikova