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Mugabe lashes at SA

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VICTORIA Falls – President Robert Mugabe yesterday suffered his first blow as Southern African Development Community (Sadc) chairperson after South Africa and Namibia refused to sign a regional protocol.

Everson Mushava/
Owen Gagare

Mugabe took over from Malawi’s Peter Mutharika as Sadc chairperson at a heads of State and government summit that ended in the resort town yesterday.

He appeared perturbed by the snub and lashed out at South Africa at a press conference. The finalisation of the Protocol on Trade-in Services was billed to be one of the major outcomes of the summit.

Other Sadc members signed the protocol in August 2012, but South Africa and Namibia requested more time to consider.

However, there was drama as the summit drew to an end after an announcement was made that the two countries would sign the protocol. The document was brought for signing at the closing ceremony, but Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba declined to sign after a conversation with his Trade and Industry minister Carl Schlettwein.

South African President Jacob Zuma, the new Sadc organ on politics, defence and security (troika) chairperson did the same after conferring with his International Relations and Co-operation minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

The protocol sets out general obligations for all State parties with regard the treatment of services and suppliers from other countries.

It does not contain liberalisation obligations, but provides for a mandate to progressively negotiate removal of barriers to the free movement of services.

Mugabe told journalists after the closing ceremony that he expected South Africa to help industrialise the region.

“We appealed to South Africa which is highly industrialised to lead us in this (industrialisation) and work with us, and co-operate with us and not just regard the whole continent as an open market for products from South Africa,” he said.

“We want a reciprocal relationship where we sell to each other and not just receive products from one source.”

The veteran leader said Sadc would also turn to China for support.

“We will discuss with China on infrastructural projects on adding value to our products,” the 90-year-old leader said.

“We will discuss with them to increase their investments in our region.”

In his closing remarks, Mugabe pleaded for support from the regional bloc to make his one-year term a success.

“This is a task that cannot be accomplished by the chair alone to steer the agenda of Sadc in order to achieve effective implementation of our programmes. I have no doubt that together we will succeed.”

The veteran ruler said the summit reviewed the economic situation in the region and analysed a status report on the review of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan.

The bloc, Mugabe said, had tasked trade ministers to strengthen the industrialisation pillar and establish relationships between industrialisation and market liberalisation.

“In the financial cluster we have looked at the progress relating to the Regional Development Fund. While there were indeed challenges, this is an objective that we should aim to achieve,” he said.

“It is a mechanisation which many regional economic communities have effectively utilised, and Sadc can be no exception.

“Such a mechanism will enable us to fund and own our programmes and reduce our preponderant dependence on out international co-operating partners.”

Mugabe said Sadc had shown a renewed collective commitment to meeting the ideals of the regional bloc for the benefit of each other and not individual countries.

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