sadc leaders attending summit.jpgThe 31st Ordinary Session of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) opened in the Angolan capital, Luanda this Wednesday amid calls for the immediate and serious implementation of programmes that overcome challenges facing the region.

SADC faces an uphill task of tackling poverty, disease, high unemployment rates as well as other economic challenges.

It is against this backdrop that the regional leaders, among them the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, President Robert Mugabe are meeting to chat the way forward in addressing these problems.

The summit is being held under the theme, ‘Development of infrastructure towards regional integration,’ to emphasise the importance of sound communication networks, road links, power as well as roads and railways in the coordination and movement of goods and services in an integrated SADC.

In his opening remarks, SADC Executive Secretary, Tomaz Augusto Salamao paid tribute to Angola as the host of the summit and a founding member of the grouping which has seen significant improvements in national savings, growth in GDPs and revenue following the impact of recession in the developed north.

 

Officially opening the summit, outgoing Chairperson, Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba, challenged leaders attending the summit to find lasting solutions to the challenges facing the sub-region, among them rising internal conflicts, famine and droughts as well as HIV and AIDS.

President Pohamba said African resources should be channelled towards alleviating the situations in Somalia, Madagascar and other countries.

The Namibian President handed over the SADC Chairmanship to this year´s host, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who will be at the helm until the next Heads of State and Government summit in 2012.

 

The incoming SADC Chairman outlined the progress that his country and SADC have made towards integration and the reconstruction of infrastructure following the protracted war in his country.

AU Commission Chairman, Dr Jean Ping saluted SADC´s fast pace towards regional integration which is fast merging with the east African community and COMESA economic regions, saying this will see the eventual realisation of the Abuja Treaty, which is aimed at establishing a united African economic block.

Former Botswana President, Festas Mogae, who is now Chairman of the Committee of Champions on the fight against HIV and AIDS, spoke about the progress that Southern Africa has made in reducing HIV and AIDS prevalence and warned that despite the reduction, sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest figure of people living with the virus.

Among the items on the agenda are the SADC Tribunal, the SADC budget and the African Union Commission post of chairman where SADC is standing behind former South African Minister of Foreign Affairs and now Minister of Home Affairs, Mrs Nkosazana Dhlamini Zuma as candidate for the chairmanship.

On the SADC Tribunal, the judges whose terms were not renewed at the last Windhoek Extraordinary Summit, are challenging their termination of jobs, saying the summit has no power over them and that their mandate should be continued.

Sources say that the challenge by the judges has exposed the need for SADC to ensure that the body funds its own programmes and organs to ensure that they are not hijacked by western imperialistic forces that have a regime change agenda in the region.

At the summit, President Robert Mugabe is among the 10 heads of state and vice presidents in attendance.

His delegation travelled to Luanda earlier and it includes Foreign Affairs Minister, Cde Simbarashe Mumbengegwi; Defence Minister, Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa; Justice Minister, Cde Patrick Chinamasa; Regional Integration and Cooperation Minister, Mrs Priscilla Misishairambwi-Mushonga; Trade and Industry Minister, Professor Welshman Ncube; Deputy Prime Minister, Professor Arthur Mutambara and the Minister of Transport, Communication and Infrastructural Development, Cde Nicholas Goche, among others.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is also in Luanda as a citizen of the region.