DAR ES SALAM, Tanzania –New Sadc chairperson Tanzanian President Dr John Magufuli yesterday called on the international community to remove sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, saying the country has “now opened a new chapter and is ready to engage with the rest of the world”.
In his acceptance speech after the official ceremonial handover of the chairmanship of the regional body at the ongoing 39th Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government here, President Magufuli also called on leaders to rally behind the push to lift the embargo.
It is not only Zimbabwe that is being affected by the deleterious impact of the sanctions, he said, but the entire region as well.
“It would certainly be remiss of me to end my speech without saying anything on Zimbabwe,” he said.
“As we are all aware, this brotherly and sisterly country has been on sanctions for a long time. These sanctions have not only affected the people of Zimbabwe and their Government but our entire region.”
“It is like a human body: when you chop one of its parts, it affects the whole body. Therefore, I would like to seize this opportunity to urge the international community to lift up sanctions it imposed on Zimbabwe.
“This brotherly country, after all, has now opened a new chapter and it is ready to engage with the rest of the world.
“It is, therefore, I believe, in the interest of all parties concerned to see these sanctions removed. In this respect, I wish also to urge all Sadc member states to continue to speak with one voice on the issue of Zimbabwe.”
Earlier in the week, the new chair of the Sadc Council of Ministers, Mr Palamagamba Kabudi — who is also Tanzania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation — told the media ahead of the regional indaba that a resolution calling for the removal of sanctions was part of 107 draft resolutions that were tabled at the summit. The Sadc Council Ministers, which is made up of ministers of foreign affairs and finance from the 16 members states, are responsible for drawing up the agenda of the summit.
“The situation in Zimbabwe has normalised with the recent successful elections and a new political dispensation,” said Minister Kabudi.
Tanzanian President Dr John Magufuli officially took over as chair of the bloc from Namibian President Hage Geingob.
Sadc believes the continued embargo on Harare by the United States and the European Union is now untenable, particularly in view of the progress that the new administration has made with its political and economic reforms.
President Mnangagwa officially takes over the chair of the Organ on Politics Defence and Security Cooperation (Organ Troika), whose major role is to secure peace and stability in the 16-member bloc.
During yesterday’s official opening ceremony, President Magufuli noted that although Sadc was relatively stable compared to other parts of the continent, there was still urgent need to eliminate conflict.
“It is, therefore, imperative that we continue to work together to address these challenges. This is important because, as we all very well know, peace and security are the most critical pre-conditions for socio-economic development and transformation. Hence, our countries must continue to work hard to make sure that our region is free from conflicts,” he said.
He added that the drive to achieve socio-economic development – which had prompted the regional body to transition from the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (Sadcc) to Sadc in 1992 – had not yet achieved the intended objective of creating jobs, particularly for the youths, and prosperity.
The new chair also urged the Sadc secretariat to roll up its sleeves as economic growth in the region had been eclipsed by other regional blocs.
Last year, economies of countries in the region grew at an average 3,1 percent, which was slower than the Eastern African region (5,7 percent), Northern Africa (4,9 percent) and West Africa (3,3 percent).
The propensity by regional countries to import products from Europe and the Americas and export predominantly raw materials was seriously affecting regional economies, he added.
President Magufuli said industrialisation and value-addition were viable solutions that could sustainably drive growth.
“Our countries are not poor. They are very rich. We have all the resources to make us rich . . .
“Indeed, as a matter of fact, our region contributes to the world about 18 percent of cobalt, 21 percent of zinc, 26 percent of gold, 55 percent of diamond and 72 percent of platinum group of metals. Therefore, we are not poor.”
In his address to handover the chairmainship, President Geingob said between January and April this year, the region had been blighted by weather-related calamities such as cyclones Desmond, Enawo, Idai and Kenneth, which showed that climate change is real.
“Disaster risk reduction should be a regional priority, as it is clear that natural disasters can have a significant negative impact on our economies and people. This, therefore, calls for deliberate measures to address the impacts of climate change, while also mainstreaming the disaster risk reduction at both the regional and national levels,” he said.
During yesterday’s opening ceremony, a Zimbabwean learner, Vongai Faith Svova, who is doing Form Six at Murambinda Government High School, came second in the Sadc Secondary School Essay Competition.
She was rewarded with US$1000, a laptop and trophy, which were presented by President Geingob and Sadc Executive Secretary Dr Lawrence Tax Stergormena.
The Sadc Summit ends today.