The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has embarked on a concerted campaign to mobilise international support in its quest to implement the revised development blueprint known as, Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP).
Just last week the regional bloc concluded negotiations with the Federal Republic of Germany in Gaborone on the status of projects being financed by the European Union (EU) Member State including future priority areas to cooperate on under the Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ (SIPO). According to SADC executive secretary, Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax, the bilateral consultations will be wrapped up next year. But in the meantime the two partners signed Minutes of the Consultations on November 26 at SADC Headquarters in Gaborone Central Business District, which commit Germany to support SADC regional integration programme.
Germany’s Ambassador to Botswana and Observer to SADC, Rolf Ulrich flanked by Counsellor, Cooperation Joachim Schmitt signed for his country, while Dr. Tax signed for the 14-member regional bloc. She was accompanied by Angelo Eduardo Mondlane, Director, Policy Planning and Resource Mobilisation and Tracy Zinanga, Senior Officer, International Partners and Mobilisation. In 2014 alone German commitments to SADC have totaled Euro 26 million, which according to Ambassador Ulrich financed the following programmes- Peace, Security and Good Governance (Eur 3 million); Trans-boundary Use and Protection of Natural Resources in SADC (Eur 8 million); Regional Fund for water supply and basic sanitation (Eur 10 million) and Transfrontier Conservation Area Great Limpopo (Eur 5 million).
The Envoy reiterated the longstanding partnership between Germany and SADC, which spans over 20 years during which the former has availed Eur 300 million for SADC. He assured the Executive Secretary that this support would continue in the future to contribute towards the noble objectives of the African Union (AU), which has singled out regional economic communities (RECs), as stepping stones to the achievement of a united Africa. The Ambassador also recognised the imperative of engaging other International Cooperating Partners (ICPs) such as the EU in joint programmes with the SADC so as to avoid overlaps and enhance synergies. For this reason, the EU Delegation in Gaborone participated as an Observer in the two-day consultations between SADC and Germany. Indeed this approach is desirable, Ambassador Ulrich admitted in a later interview with this reporter, when asked why Germany would enter into bilateral engagements with a regional bloc, when it’s a member of a regional bloc itself (EU). “These things are sometimes confusing,” he conceded. And they must be.
This explains the moribund status of SADC, which in spite of averments to the contrary, is regarded by ICPs as just a single country to do business with at bilateral level. Regarding areas of cooperation that will be supported under the revised RISDP in the plan period 2015- 2020, Dr. Tax mentioned industrial development and market integration; infrastructure in support of regional integration; peace and security cooperation and lastly special programmes of regional dimension, which include natural resources and food security. She said during the consultations to support the programme of deepening regional integration for the benefit of the people in the SADC region. Great focus will however be lent on the areas of regional integration and infrastructure; peace security and good governance and management; and protection of biodiversity and resilience to climate change. Asked by this newspaper what good governance entails, Dr. Tax said it was “broad,” and could include electoral observance missions and mediation efforts in dispute resolutions.
Surprisingly, SADC member states had spurned EU overtures to include ‘good governance’ during negotiations for the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) among conditions for benefitting from the trade accord. SADC had argued that the EU was encroaching on its sovereign policy space, since good governance embraces values attached to democracy; rule of law and conduct of elections. Under the SADC-German cooperation, Germany is also funding SADC regional peacekeeping centre based in Harare, Zimbabwe. The centre’s mandate according to Ambassador Ulrich is to train in various peacekeeping activities. He added that the centre will not only be used for military personnel but also for civilian purposes, such as in responding to natural disasters.
Dr. Tax said Harare was chosen to host the centre by a “competent authority” referring to the Organ on Politics, Defense and Security. Ironically, the Organ’s founding Chairman in 1996 was long time Zimbabwe president, Robert Gabriel Mugabe. He would no sooner mobilise the armies of Angola, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe under the Organ’s aegis, to launch a protracted war against the rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the side of the late DRC leader, Laurent Kabila. Invariably, it was this selfsame action that would lead to the collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy, when the national treasury was being used to finance an external war.