Southern African Co-ordination Conference and language policy

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Aug 19 13:31:47 UTC 2005

SADC: Binding Southern Africa

The Herald (Harare)
August 18, 2005

By Fortious Nhambura and Richard Nyamanhindi

AFTER the Berlin Conference of 1884-85, one of the enduring legacies that
Africa inherited from the colonial past is division. This weakness has
been exploited by Western powers to destroy Africa's capacity to resist
neo-colonialism in all its guises, through the old ruse of divide and
rule. If Africa is to win the war against its detractors, unity is the way
forward, for there is an old adage that says, "there is strength in

Since the formation of the Southern African Co-ordination Conference
(Sadcc) in Lusaka, Zambia in April 1980, Southern African countries have
moved from a loose co-operation through Sadc to a more effective
integration through its successor, the Southern African Development
Community (Sadc). Sadc celebrated its Silver Jubilee on April 1 this year,
the date its predecessor, the Sadcc, was formed. Sadcc was formed to
create "a common future for countries in sub-Saharan Africa, a future that
would ensure the economic well-being and improvement of the standards and
quality of life" in the region.

The regional group has seen its membership growing from nine in 1980 to 14
in 1997. Currently, its membership stands at 13 following the withdrawal
of Seychelles in 2004. Today Sadc boasts of an attractive regional market
of over 200 million people and a gross domestic product (GDP) of over
US$185 billion. Thus, regional integration offers a lot of potential for
economic and political growth.

The 13 member states are Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa,
Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Since its
inception, Sadc has made impressive achievements particularly in the
transport and communications sector with the building and rehabilitation
of road links, railways, airports, sea ports and harbours.

Notable achievements have also been made in the areas of trade and
industry where intra-Sadc trade surged from about 5 percent in 1980 to
around 25 percent this year. The challenges of rampant poverty, HIV and
Aids, food insecurity among others, are being addressed through the
organisation's 15-year Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan that
is designed to implement only programmes and activities that will
accelerate regional integration and co-operation through sustainable

Recently, Sadc tabled plans for the development of new energy projects,
such as the Western Corridor Power Project. This will carry power from a
hydroelectric scheme at the Inga Falls in the DRC to Angola, Botswana,
Namibia and South Africa; and Mepanda Uncua Power Project for the
downstream development of the Cabora Bassa Dam in Mozambique, among
others. These projects will benefit the people of the region if the
prevailing political stability and unity is promoted and maintained.

In an effort to continue enhancing regional integration, Sadc is moving
towards the establishment of a standing peacekeeping force through the
re-opening of the Regional Peacekeeping Training Centre (RPTC) in Harare.
This is being done to promote and defend peace and security in the region.
Speaking at the handover of the Sadc RPTC in Harare a fortnight ago,
Zimbabwe's Defence Minister Cde Sydney Sekeramayi said the purpose of the
centre was to increase the regional peacekeeping capacity and capabilities
in implementing African Union and United Nations peacekeeping operations.

Cde Sekeramayi said this would enhance the stability of the region and
thus improve the prospects for economic co-operation, growth and social
progress. "It is in view of the above that we, in Zimbabwe, having been
responsible for the administration of this institution, are today going to
officially hand over this responsibility to the Sadc secretariat," he

Officiating at the same function, South African Defence Minister Mosiuoa
Lekota said Sadc countries need to remain united and work for the
development of the region to avoid taking their differences to countries
that threaten regional unity. "We need friends, but they must be friends
on conditions that we put forward. Sadc has set itself values, standards
and protocols that must be observed by the region for the betterment of
its people without strings attached from the outside world," said Mr

The centre was established in the early 1990s when Sadc member states
became more active in United Nations peacekeeping operations. Zimbabwe
took over the centre soon after assuming chairmanship of the Sadc
Inter-State Defence and Security Committee in 1996. It then began
coordinating peacekeeping training in the region; this marked the birth of
the RPTC, which was later closed in 2002.

The re-opening of the peacekeeping centre comes at a time when defence
experts have called for closer links between the regional institution's,
political and economic planning bodies, to strengthen the implementation
of the Strategic Indicative Plan of the Organ on Politics, Defence and
Security Co-operation (SIPO). SIPO is the region's blueprint for
development and implementation of the Protocol on Politics, Defence and
Security Co-operation.

In addition to the above, Sadc is also working towards setting up a
regional parliament. This will be designed in the mould of the Economic
Community of West African States' (Ecowas) parliament. The Sadc parliament
would deliberate on issues of governance, economic and social development
in relation to the needs of the people. Zambian President, Levy Mwanawasa,
who is one of the major proponents of the Sadc Parliament, has advocated
for the early transformation of the Sadc Parliamentary Forum into a
regional legislature without delay.

Based in Windhoek, the Sadc Parliamentary Forum was established in 1996
and brings together more than 1 800 parliamentarians from member
countries. The major challenge facing the Sadc Parliamentary Forum,
however, is the issue of legitimacy, for the regional grouping of
legislators has at times danced to the tune dictated by its Western

Thus, there is need to reclaim it first before transforming it. Article 4
of the Sadc Treaty stipulates that human rights, democracy and the rule of
law are principles guiding the actions of its members.

Article 5, on the other hand, outlines the objectives that commit member
states to "promote common political values, systems and other shared
values that are transmitted through democratic and legitimate
institutions". It also commits member states to consolidate, defend and
maintain democracy peace, security and stability in the region.

Currently, Sadc has a Heads of Government meeting, which is the ultimate
policy-making organ; a Council of Ministers, responsible for the economic
planning or finance of respective countries.  In addition there are
Commissions and Sectoral Committees that guide and coordinate the
co-operation and integration of policies and programmes in designated
areas, and the Standing Committee of Officials which is a technical
advisory committee to the Council, this meets annually.

The integration of Southern African states has enabled the region to deal
with globalisation that is threatening most developing world countries. In
2001, Sadc restructured and adopted a centralised approach in running the
development of member states. Since then, the regional group has taken a
centralised approach by grouping different areas of focus under four
directorates co-ordinated through the Secretariat at the Sadc Head
Quarters in Gaborone, Botswana.

These include Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment, Infrastructure and
Services, Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the Social and
Human Development and Special Programmes. The previous decentralised
strategy gave each member country a sector to coordinate and monitor based
on perceived strengths and opportunities. Zimbabwe was, thus, responsible
for food security, Angola for energy and Botswana for livestock
production, to mention just a few.

The restructuring of Sadc was done on a firm foundation that has enabled
the region to achieve and speed up development and economic growth,
alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the people.
Colonialism ushered in the region four "official" languages namely
English, French, Portuguese and Afrikaans, and these have retarded
communication in Southern Africa.

A common language is central for regional integration and advancement.
Thus, Sadc must work towards the development of a common language policy
to enhance regional integration. Of great importance is the harmonisation
of trade, which favours South Africa.

To date, the success of Sadc has hinged on the organisation's respect for
the long-standing historical, social and cultural affinities and links
among the people of the region. The organisation also holds the political
integrity and sovereignty of its member states to be paramount. Sadc has
also signed a Mutual Defence Pact that ensures collective regional

The pact also renounces the use of force in settling disputes between
member states, whilst collective force can be used as a last resort
against a member that breaks the law. Given the common history of Sadc
states and their geographical proximity, effective regional integration in
areas concerning economic development, conflict prevention and resolution
can only be pursued through active co-operation and collaboration.

Regional integration with all its different components is no longer an
option but a must for the region if it is to repel the threat of

Copyright  2005 The Herald. All rights reserved.

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