This year, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will be commemorating 40th Anniversary of its journey from 1st April, 1980 when its forerunner the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) was officially formed, in Lusaka, Zambia and later transformed to SADC on 17th August 1992 in Windhoek, Namibia. Innocent Mbvundula (IM) interviewed the Head of Communications and Public Relations at the SADC Secretariat, Ms. Barbara Lopi (BL) to explain the role of SADC and the relevance of the regional body.
IM: First and foremost, what is the mission of SADC?
BL: The mission of SADC is to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development in the 16 Member States through efficient, productive systems, deeper co-operation and integration, good governance, and durable peace and security; so that the region emerges as a competitive and effective player in international relations and the world economy. In order to fulfill this mission, the SADC Member States are guided by the following principles, as stated in Article 4 of the SADC Treaty:
• Sovereign equality of all Member States;
• Solidarity, peace and security;
• Human rights, democracy and the rule of law; Equity, balance and mutual benefit; and Peaceful settlement of disputes.
IM: As SADC commemorates 40 years of existence this year, would you say that SADC has made successes and that the organization is still relevant?
BL: Yes, SADC has made successes and the regional body is still relevant. From its inception, SADC has been guided by the desire to establish a regional integration bloc to link regional economies, strengthen the region's economic performance, and enhance the region's political stability. The objectives of SADC, as stated in the SADC Treaty, are all still relevant, and these are to:
• 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 inter-dependence of member States;
• Achieve complementarity between national and regional strategies and programs;
• Promote and maximize productive employment and utilization of resources of the region;
• Achieve sustainable utilization of natural resources and effective protection of the environment; and
• Strengthen and consolidate the long-standing historical, social and cultural affinities and links among the people of the Region.
To achieve these objectives, Member States have continued to work together harmoniously in achieving effective results on common problems and issues. Since 1992, the Member States of SADC have adopted thirty-three (33) protocols and a number of declarations, agreements, charters and memoranda of understanding on issues ranging from mining, trade, finance and investment, peace and security; to combating of illicit drugs, extradition, law and justice, health, energy, forestry, fisheries, wildlife, tourism, culture and shared watercourses, as well as the protection of the rights and empowerment of women and young people, amongst others. Out of the thirty-three (33) protocols, twenty-five (25) have come into force after being ratified by two thirds of the signatory Member States.
IM: Sometimes we notice that the difference between SADC and the SADC Secretariat is not well under-stood. Can you explain the difference between these two?
BL: The difference between SADC and the SADC Secretariat is that, the SADC Secretariat is one of the institutions of SADC, the regional body, which is comprised of the 16 Member States; Angola, Botswana, Union of Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The mandate of SADC, the regional body is to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development, and to execute its mandate, the regional body, and to execute its mandate, the regional body, has established institutions with specific responsibilities. As one of the institutions of SADC, the SADC Secretariat is specifically responsible for strategic planning and management of SADC programmes; implementation of the decisions of the Summit and Council; coordination and harmonisation of policies and strategies; management of special programmes and projects; monitoring and evaluation; resource mobilisation; and research. Other Institutions of SADC include: the SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government; the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation; the SADC Council of Ministers; the Sectoral and cluster ministerial committees; the standing committee of senior officials; the SADC Administrative Tribunal; and the SADC National committees.
IM: When talking about SADC, often times, the role of citizens in achieving the regional integration agenda and socio-economic development is not highlighted. What is the role of SADC citizens and what mechanism does SADC have for citizen participation?
BL: The 16 Member States of SADC, represent a total population of 342 million citizens, who are stakeholders of SADC, and have a role to play in achieving the regional integration agenda and socio-economic development. According to Article 23 of the SADC Treaty, SADC Stakeholders include the private sector; civil society, non-govern-mental organisations; and workers and employers organisations. The SADC Treaty states that SADC shall seek to involve fully, the people of the Region and non-governmental organizations in the process of regional integration. The article further states, that SADC shall co-operate with, and support the initiatives of the peoples of the Region and non-govern-mental organisations, contributing to the objectives of SADC in the areas of co-operation in order to foster closer relations among the communities, associations and people of the Region. In this regard, mechanisms exist for the private sector and other non-state actors to participate and contribute towards sustainable regional integration agenda and socio-economic development. One of the mechanisms for SADC Citizen’s participation is the SADC Business Council which has been established to strengthen the engagement of private sector in the SADC integration and development agenda, at the regional level, and national level. Another mechanism is the Memorandum of Understanding with the Southern African Development Community Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (SADC-CNGO) which has seen the SADC-CNGO participating in several SADC processes including the development of a SADC mechanism for engagement with Non-State Actors, and the development of SADC Vision 2050, drafting of the SADC Regional Poverty Reduction Framework, as well as in designing the SADC Regional Poverty Observatory mechanism.
IM: There is a perception in some quarters of the SADC citizenry that the role of SADC is limited, or SADC is slow to intervene in national affairs of Member States. Can you explain what it takes for SADC to intervene in Member State domestic or national issues.
BL: The SADC Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation provides guidance on when to intervene in a Member State’s domestic or national issues. The main aim of the Organ Protocol is largely to encourage solidarity, peace, and security among the SADC member states through closer co-operation in the field of politics, defence and security. In line with the main goals and ethics of the Protocol, the methodology of resolving conflict is based on preventative diplomacy, negotiation, conciliation, mediation, good offices, arbitration and adjudication by international tribunal. The principles of consultation and consent are used to stimulate conflict resolution, as well as encouraging co-operation among member states.
IM: In brief, is the region better off with SADC than without it?
BL: Yes, the region is better off with SADC than without it. The regional grouping has been able to demonstrate that regional integration and co-operation are possible and desirable, and member states have continued to work together harmoniously in achieving effective results on common problems and issues. Addition-ally, SADC has been able to instil a sense of regional belonging as well as a practice of consultation among the peoples and governments of the region. This has positioned the region as a strong, competitive and attractive destination. Furthermore, the region continues to be an effective player in international relations and the world economy. Additionally, SADC is a building block of the African Economic Community, aimed at fostering continental integration.