SADC new chairman President Robert Mugabe yesterday pleaded for support to allow him to steer the agenda of the regional group as South African President Jacob Zuma and Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba refused to sign an important protocol on trade.
EVERSON MUSHAVA/OWEN GAGARE IN VICTORIQ FALLS
Mugabe told journalists after officially closing the 34th Sadc Heads of State and Government Summit in Victoria Falls that South Africa should help in the industrialisation of the region rather than turn other countries into mere consumers of its products.
“We appealed to South Africa, which is highly industrialised, to lead us in this [industrialisation] and work with us, and co-operate with us and not just regard the whole continent as an open market for products from South Africa,” Mugabe said.
“We want a reciprocal relationship where we sell to each other and not just receiving products from one source.”
Sadc members signed the Trade Protocol in August 2012, but South Africa and Namibia requested more time to consider. The protocol sets out general obligations for all State parties with regard to the treatment of services and service suppliers from other countries.
It does not contain liberalisation obligations, but provides for a mandate to progressively negotiate removal of barriers to the free movement of services.
The master of ceremony at the closing ceremony of the summit yesterday said South Africa and Namibia would sign the protocol.
But when Sadc Secretariat aides brought the protocol to Pohamba, he declined to sign after a brief chat with his Trade and Industry minister Carl Schlettwein.
Zuma, who took over as the new chairman of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security (Troika), also consulted his International Relations and Co-operation minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane before declining to sign, a development that could have angered Mugabe.
The veteran leader said Sadc would also turn to China for support.
Earlier in his closing remarks, Mugabe pleaded for support from the regional bloc, saying alone, he would not be able to effectively implement agreed Sadc programmes.
“During my tenure as your chairman, I pledge to represent the interests of our various countries so that the Sadc voice, programmes and projects are ever present,” Mugabe said.