THE Sadc Heads of State and Government Summit set for Lilongwe, Malawi, this week will deliberate on a wide range of regional issues including the Zimbabwe and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) political situations; and the appointment of a new leadership for the regional bloc’s secretariat.
According to a draft agenda, the Sadc Summit will discuss a report of the Ministerial Task Force on Regional Economic Integration.
The Task Force was mandated by southern African leaders to work on a roadmap for the proposed launch of the Sadc Customs Union, which is aimed at deepening integration and promoting the smooth movement of goods and services across the region through the removal of non-trade barriers.
Establishment of a Sadc Customs Union would complement the Sadc Free Trade Area (FTA) that was launched in 2008.
At the last summit held in Maputo, Mozambique, the Task Force reported that some progress had been made in developing the parameters, benchmarks, a model customs union for the region and the timing of activities leading to the launch of the customs union.
The launch of the Sadc Customs Union was initially scheduled for 2010. However, member countries asked for more time to first implement the Sadc FTA.
A customs union is an advanced stage of integration when compared to an FTA as it does not require tariffs or quotas on goods originating from within the region.
Another issue for discussion is the report on the recent Sadc infrastructure investment summit held in Mozambique in June. The conference had southern Africa presenting its multi-billion-dollar infrastructure development plan to potential funders.
Infrastructure development is critical towards socio-economic growth; hence the region is aiming for an efficient, seamless and cost-effective trans-boundary infrastructure network at the national and regional levels.
At least 106 cross-border infrastructure projects covering the priority sectors of energy, transport, tourism, water, information communication technology and meteorology were presented to the investment summit.
These projects are contained in the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan — a 15-year blueprint that will guide the implementation of cross-border infrastructure projects between 2013 and 2027.
The master plan will be implemented over three five-year intervals — short-term (2012-2017), medium-term (2017-2022) and long-term (2022-2027).
With regard to the political situation in the region, the leaders are expected to receive a report from the outgoing chairperson of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.
The report is expected to include the situation in the DRC and Madagascar as well an update on the recent harmonised elections in Zimbabwe, which were endorsed as credible by a 573-member Sadc observer mission.
The DRC slid into political turmoil early last year when anti-government rebels calling themselves the March 23 Movement invaded and captured the city of Goma, causing displacement of people and loss of lives and property.
Sadc has called for a peaceful and durable resolution of the conflict in DRC and have pledged to contribute troops to be deployed for this purpose.
Madagascar is in a constitutional crisis following the ouster of former President Marc Ravalomanana by Andry Rajoelina in 2009, in a similar method used by Ravalomanana on former President Didier Ratsiraka a few years back.
Southern African leaders are expected to also receive a report on the Sadc Tribunal.
The Sadc Tribunal was disbanded in 2010, following an order by the Sadc summit for an independent review of its functions and terms of reference.
The summit last year directed that the Protocol on the Sadc Tribunal and Rules of Procedure Thereof be negotiated and the jurisdiction of the new Tribunal be confined only to an advisory role and interpretation of the Sadc Treaty and any protocols that may be negotiated among Member States.
On the new leadership for the secretariat, the summit is expected to appoint a new executive secretary and deputy executive secretary for regional integration.
The tenure of Tomaz Augusto Salomão as executive secretary is coming to an end after serving in that capacity for two four-year terms.
Deputy executive secretary, João Caholo has also been with the secretariat for two four-year terms. However, he was only appointed the deputy executive secretary for regional integration in 2009 when a second post of deputy executive secretary was created to take charge of finance and administration.
Although it is still unclear on who will lead the Sadc Secretariat, a meeting by the Sadc Council of Ministers that met in March in Maputo, Mozambique discussed and shortlisted two candidates from Tanzania and Seychelles.
Angolan Foreign minister Georges Chikoti told journalists after the Maputo meeting that there were a sufficient number of candidates for the executive secretary and deputy executive secretary positions.
The summit will review progress towards targets set in the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development which entered into force this year.
Among other issues, the protocol commits Member States to attaining 50-percent representation of women and men in political and decision-making positions by 2015.
Other socio-economic issues to be discussed during summit include the global economic crisis, food security and ways to curb HIV and Aids.
The 33rd annual Sadc summit will be held from August 17-18. Meetings of senior officials are scheduled for August 10-13, followed by the Council of Ministers from August 14-15.
Malawian President Joyce Banda is expected to assume the rotating Sadc chair from President Armando Guebuza of Mozambique.