In a series of editorials published last year, we condemned SADC for its paralysis in dealing with the various economic, developmental and political challenges facing the region.
We noted that the organisation had departed from the nobility of its yesteryear national liberation and anti-apartheid objectives and had instead become obsessed with non-critical back-patting and high-fiving among its political elites. Meanwhile the progression of economic, developmental and human aspirations lie unsatisfied, while several leaders continue to molest their citizens either through violence, the denial of democracy or the befoulment of the economy. Starting on Monday, technocrats began meeting in Gaborone ahead of the SADC Council of Ministers meeting set for this weekend.
Next Monday, heads of state of the member countries arrive for a summit at which the host, President Ian Khama will take over the chairmanship.
For a total of nine hours spread over two days, SADC leaders will discuss weighty matters facing the region, which include political crises in some member states and economic challenges, all under the SADC Treaty’s over-arching goal of eradicating poverty.From past experience, we would urge citizens of the region not to expect too much in terms of political redress, in so far as the situations in Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Madagascar are concerned.
Over the years, SADC has more than ably proven its ineptitude in confronting and resolving political crises among its members, being – as it effectively is – back-patting fraternity of former liberation struggle allies.Those who have swum against the tide have found themselves ostracised and alienated such as when Botswana disagreed with Zimbabwe election results and the ‘governance processes’.
Indeed Khama was much maligned in the region for seeing through the weak facade of democracy Zimbabwe’s leaders were attempting to drape over the eyes of regional scrutiny. Regional citizens would also be well-advised not to hold their breaths for cataclysmic economic developments from this week’s SADC meetings. Again, on past record, the threshold of success in economic matters has been set very low in the regional group. From trade to infrastructure, to the long-awaited customs union, single currency, industrialisation goals and others, SADC has been content to say: “work is ongoing”.
Unlike the ECOWAS, where targets attached to protocols and plans are enforceable and legally binding on members, SADC has relied on moral suasion, which more often than not results in lofty declarations at summits, instead of action on the ground. When its proponents sing out SADC’s economic achievements, they are usually misappropriating the individual and non-coordinated achievements of member states, which are separate from SADC- funded implementation across borders.
Khama’s ascension to the head of SADC is therefore an opportunity to break from the norm and inject fresh impetus in an otherwise flaccid organisation. Without the burden of liberation-era comradeship, Khama could very well be the best opportunity for SADC to prove its relevance to a region desperately lacking political and economic decisiveness.
“The world is starving for original and decisive leadership.”
- Bryant H. McGill