Business Day said on Tuesday that Mugabe was at a weekend summit in Lilongwe elected deputy chairperson of the 15-nation bloc for the next year. This means he will host the next summit in Harare in August 2014 and automatically succeed Malawi’s Joyce Banda whose one-year term as chairperson began on Sunday.
Part of a communiqué released after the summit read: "The Summit elected Her Excellence Joyce Banda [the President] of the Republic of Malawi and His Excellence Robert Gabriel Mugabe President of the Republic of Zimbabwe as chairpersons and deputy chairpersons of SADC respectively."
Zimbabwe's state owned Herald quoted Mugabe as saying the country should "adequately prepare" for next year's summit.
Mugabe said the summit was unanimous in endorsing the 31 July elections "despite efforts by Western posers and non-governmental organisations who sought to discredit the polls".
According to Business Day, SADC's outgoing executive secretary, Tomaz Salomao, said there was nothing surprising about Mugabe’s election to succeed Banda next year.
"There is an alphabetical roster for the chairmanship, according to a country’s name," he said.
The formula to explain the jump from M for Malawi to Z for Zimbabwe, scaling many other member states, was not immediately clear.
Zimbabwe’s leader is regarded by many in Southern Africa as a liberation struggle hero who is almost above criticism, particularly by European countries.
Mugabe is set to be sworn in for his eighth term on Thursday.