The Sixth and 1st Female Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, whose tenure of office is coming to an end on 31 August 2021, bade farewell to SADC leaders at the 41st Summit of Heads of State and Government in Lilongwe, Republic of Malawi, on 17 August 2021.
Dr Tax, a national of the United Republic of Tanzania, was appointed by the SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government during its 33rd meeting in Lilongwe in 2013, and her tenure was extended for a second term on 20 August, 2017 during the 37th SADC
“My journey as the SADC Executive Secretary began on 18 August 2013 when I was appointed and sworn-in, in this very city of Lilongwe, in the warm heart of Africa. Having completed my tenure, God, saw it fit that, it be in this same city that my tenure ends, and I hand over to my successor. I am grateful to the Almighty that it started well, and it is ending well here,” she said.
“This being my last Summit in my capacity as the SADC Executive Secretary, I stand in humility, before Your Excellencies, to thank you profoundly for the confidence and trust that you bestowed on me to lead the SADC Secretariat, and to serve the SADC Region. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity, and for the guidance and support that you rendered to me during my tenure.
She highlighted the achievements of SADC over the years, in terms of peace and security, consolidation of democracy, macro-economic convergence, industrialization, SADC intra-trade, regional connectivity, access to energy, financial integration and inclusion, and mobile penetration. She said “’I am proud of what the region has achieved over the eight years, under Your Excellency’s stewardship, and I am also grateful for the wealth of knowledge and experience that I have acquired over the eight years, which I will always treasure.”
Dr Tax also expressed her gratitude to the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania. She said, ‘’as I express my gratitude to Your Excellencies SADC Heads of State and Government, allow me to also extend my profound gratitude to my Government, the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania for the trust, and for nominating me for this important position our to millions of capable Tanzanians”. She also thanked Ministers and officials from SADC Members States, SADC Partners and Stakeholders for the tremendous support.
Dr Tax encouraged SADC citizens to preserve SADC values, and the long and inspiring history of SADC, and said “A nation or a region that does not premise its future on its values and history, journeys on a bumpy road”. She said the Hashim Mbita publication, which was launched in 2014, documents authentically the history of the Southern Africa Liberation struggles, and is an important reference for SADC history. She also indicated that the journey that SADC has travelled over the 40 years of its existence, since the establishment of the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) in April 1980, has been documented in a publication https://www.sadc.int/files/1116/2446/6301/40_Years_of_SADC-Enhancing_Regional_Cooperation_and_Integration-English.pdf launched in June 2021. The publication presents four decades of lessons and successes.
Dr Tax said she expressed satisfaction on the progress made in empowering women, both economically, and in leadership positions in the Region, and called for sustained and accelerated progress in women empowerment, saying there is still ground to be covered.
She said “SADC has a number of female leaders in various positions, including a female President in SADC, H.E Samia Suluhu Hassan of the United Republic of Tanzania, who has demonstrated beyond any doubt that women are capable of steering nations with outstanding and exemplary leadership, and wisdom.
“I am, and will forever be proud of the unity demonstrated by SADC Member States. It gives me a sense of belonging and identity. This notwithstanding it is worth noting that we are currently confronted with different challenges in the New Economic Order. Let us sustain and strengthen our position in unity, and avoid being fragmented, and marginalized, as together we will continue to stand, while divided we will stumble and fall. Challenges of today are different and complex, and sometimes may seem not to be visible, but are real, requiring us to remain vigilant and united.”
She thanked Secretariat Staff for supporting her to realize the objectives of SADC, and what was expected of them as servants of the Region. “The recorded achievements are a result by a wonderful team of dedicated professionals, who gave their best in ensuring that we succeed. I am leaving office with a deep sense of fulfilment. Thank you, and thank you. I will forever cherish you, and remain indebted to you.”
“As I exit, I am thankful to SADC Member States, and all SADC stakeholders for taking part in the formulation of the SADC Vision 2050, and the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (2020-2030) that were approved in August, 2020. It is therefore, imperative that these policies are used to transform our Region to the SADC We Want. I am confident that the Secretariat, under my successor, will drive regional integration through these strategic frameworks for the betterment of the region,” she said.
“As I bid farewell, I wish my successor all the best, and assure him/her of my full support, and humbly request that we all support him/her,” Dr Tax said. Dr Tax said SADC needs a dynamic, effective and efficient Secretariat and that a vibrant and dynamic Secretariat facilitates a vibrant Region, and that a sound organization is grounded on sound policies and strategies.
SADC had come a long way since the days of the liberation struggles, and the Region owed its cooperation, unity and development to the founders of this great organization whose sacrifices have enabled the level of transformation and successes it is enjoying today.
It was befitting that SADC recognizes the contributions of the Founding Fathers, and in acknowledging their contributions, in August 2020, the SADC Summit approved a mechanism to honour the Founders of SADC.
Dr Tax implored SADC Member States to operationalize the mechanism, which will ensure that the history of SADC, and the legacy of the SADC Founders, remains engraved in the history of the organization, and is imparted to the generations to come.