SADC slated on its values

2017-08-20 06:02
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attended the 37th Ordinary SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government in Pretoria on Saturday. Picture: Reuters

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attended the 37th Ordinary SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government in Pretoria on Saturday. Picture: Reuters

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Protesters lined the road leading to the venue where the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit was held on Saturday, as several heads of states were ferried past in blue light convoys to attend.

Protesters accused the regional body of not applying its principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Strict security meant that the activists were moved away from the entrance of the Department of International Relations’ headquarters in Soutpansberg Road in Pretoria, where the summit was held.

Expatriates from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) demanded to be let into the venue, saying they wanted the SADC to put pressure on DRC President Joseph Kabila to organise elections that were already eight months overdue.

“We are protesting against Kabila for not organising elections on time. We need support from the SADC for the Congolese,” a protester said.

The protesters, under the banner of the SADC Democracy Forum, pointed to Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Swaziland regarding democracy, human rights and economic failures.

Zambian president Edgar Lungu, however, was received by a “cheering crowd” when he arrived at his hotel ahead of the summit, according to a statement by the Zambian High Commission.

Protesters, who also accused the SADC of selling out to multinationals and power elites, included members of the Economic Freedom Fighters, labour federation Cosatu, the SA 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.

On Friday another activist coalition, the SADC People’s Summit, criticised the SADC heavily “for not following through on existing protocols” on the free movement of people.

Activists from at least two countries, Madagascar and Tanzania, had been refused visas to attend the people’s summit, said organiser Brian Ashley from the Alternative Information and Development Centre.

He said the theme of the people’s summit was to rebuild solidarity among peoples in the region.

“SADC has been captured, not by the Guptas, but by the EU and to a lesser extent the US and now China through Brics,” he said.

He added that there was “a lot of criticism of China and China’s role” in the region.

He said the feeling was that the elites were striking business deals with China which didn’t always benefit everybody.

At the opening session of the SADC summit yesterday, Seychelles President Danny Faure urged in his maiden speech that Lesotho and the DRC needed the SADC’s support “to assist in creating security and stability in their countries”.

The security situation wasn’t mentioned by the other speakers, which included incoming SADC chairperson President Jacob Zuma and SADC executive secretary Stergomena Tax.

The SADC has been criticised recently following comparative successes in other regions, such as by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), which earlier this year with some diplomatic and military pressure forced former president Yahya Jammeh to hand over power to Adama Barrow after he won that country’s election.

The SADC lacks an intervention force equal to that of Ecowas.

Steven Gruzd, foreign policy analyst at the South African Institute of International Affairs, said South Africa has recently had “less of an appetite for SADC as the regime is concerned with the succession battle”, and also as government has turned its view more towards Brics and the G20.

He said Ecowas did not have the [negative] element of solidarity with liberation movements among the countries, and this enabled Ecowas to act more decisively.

Read more on:    udm  |  sadc  |  eff  |  brics  |  edgar lungu  |  joseph kabila  |  jacob zuma

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