AN Extraordinary summit of the Southern African Development Community yesterday endorsed Zimbabwe’s August 23, 2023 elections as “exemplary and a major victory for democracy” and implored other countries in the region due to hold their polls later this year to emulate Harare.
Addressing the summit, held virtually and drawing Heads of States and Government from the region, SADC Chairperson and Angolan leader, President Joao Lourenco, hailed Zimbabwe and the Kingdom of Eswatini for recently holding elections in a democratic manner, saying other countries that were due to hold elections this year had a lot to learn from the two countries.
The extraordinary virtual summit was convened to discuss the security situation in the region with particular focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo where there have been hostilities in eastern parts of the country.
The summit is expected to continue this Saturday in Luanda, Angola where leaders are expected to hold a physical meeting after encountering some connectivity glitches yesterday.
President Lourenco, who initially congratulated President Mnangagwa for his election victory when they met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, repeated the same message during yesterday’s Extraordinary Summit which was attended by several Heads of State and Government who included President Mnangagwa and the Chairperson of Sadc Troika on Politics, Defence and Security and Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema.
“Your Excellencies, allow me to congratulate His Excellency, Emmerson Mnangagwa, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, His Majesty King Mswati (III) for the exemplary elections that were recently conducted in your countries where there was tranquillity and the orderly manner in which they took place constituted a major victory for democracy and contribution to peace and stability amongst everyone in the Republic of Zimbabwe and the Kingdom of Eswatini.
“Allow me to express our hope that this same spirit will also be seen in the elections that will take place in the Republic of Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said President Lourenco.
The endorsement of the election in Zimbabwe put paid to the country’s detractors that had sought to discredit the polls with baseless claims that they did not meet the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
But most observers, countries and liberation movements, that include South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, gave the elections a clean bill of health and hailed the peaceful process that occurred before, during and after the polls.
In an interview soon after the meeting, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Frederick Shava said President Lourenco was quite precise in his acknowledgement of how credible the Zimbabwean elections were.
“He was very positive and congratulated Zimbabwe once again. If you remember he did congratulate His Excellency, President Mnangagwa, for his re-election when we were in New York during UNGA. Today at the opening ceremony, he repeated that same message and also congratulated the Kingdom of Eswatini. Nothing more about Zimbabwe came out, although we identified an agenda item which wanted to discuss Zimbabwe but we adjourned before we got to it. Of course it was included by the people who prepared it, the Secretariat,” said Ambassador Shava.
He said Zimbabwe felt the inclusion of the item was not procedural given that an extraordinary meeting should not stray into other areas but focus on the purpose for which the meeting was convened.
The President joins other leaders during the SADC Summit, yesterday
“An extraordinary meeting discussed one thing they went for and in this case it was the DRC and we objected. The meeting ended because we were having connectivity glitches in the various places from which we were following proceedings, so the meeting became inconsistent because of audibility issues.
“The chairman suggested that we should defer it so we could meet in person. He suggested that we have it this Saturday, so we might be going to Angola for a meeting on Saturday,” Ambassador Shava said.
Turning to the DRC, President Lourenco said the summit should discuss issues of budgetary support towards deployment of SADC troops to that country.
The deployment of more SADC forces followed a field assessment by the region’s defence chiefs in March 2023 after a resurgence of armed conflict by M23 and other rebel groups in Eastern DRC which is rich in natural resources.
The summit is also expected to discuss the security situation in SADC and how the region could remain vigilant in the context of hostilities in the Middle East where thousands of lives have been lost in recent weeks.
President Lourenco said yesterday’s meeting was in pursuance of the region’s desire to find lasting peace and stability in SADC by discussing ways to end conflict in trouble spots in areas like Eastern DRC.
The summit, said President Lourenco, should come up with positions to ensure peace in the region and how to remain vigilant in the context of conflict-ravaged areas like the Middle East.
“We have an opportunity to consider a proposal on the deployment of forces to DRC to collectively support our sister country of DRC to have peace and security in the eastern parts of that country. We recognise the need for a high level political intervention to have peace. I have no doubt that this summit will enable us to engage and discuss comprehensively on the way forward and propose the attainment of peace. I must stress that time is not on our side,” said President Lourenco.
He said it was imperative to ensure lasting peace in DRC so that its population will be able to hold elections that are due in the next few months.
President Lourenco also bemoaned the conflict in the Middle East where Israel has launched a counter attack on Palestinian group Hamas, in a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives and left a trail of destruction in the Gaza Strip.
He described the deaths as “human tragedy” and called for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East.
Earlier on, SADC Executive Secretary, Mr Elias Magosi, said the region was actively engaged in finding lasting peace in the DRC and it was critical that the SADC summit comes up with a consolidated position.
In the Luanda meeting, the Summit is expected to finalise discussions on the consolidation of peace, security and governance in the SADC region.
The SADC Summit is responsible for the overall policy direction and control of the function of the bloc.