President John Magufuli takes over the Southern African Development Community (SADC) chairmanship this year, 2019, from his Namibian counterpart, Dr Hage Geingob.
Last time the country chaired the summit was in 2003. Former Tanzanian President Dr Jakaya Kikwete, based on his across-the-board experience as Head of the State for ten years, has a lot to share on the regional bloc’s history, successes, opportunities and areas that member states must improve to ensure that objectives of the SADC are met.
CHRISTOPHER MAJALIWA attended an interview with Dr Kikwete who once served as the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister for ten years, including the period Tanzania was the SADC Chair.
Follow the excerpts below…. Q: AS Tanzania’s former President and one of the country’s broadly experienced leaders, what is your assessment of the 27 years of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)?
A: Before answering this question, let me first narrate to you how SADC came into existence. Most of you don’t know exactly what happened and how things went.
In 1975 after Portuguese colonies became independent (Portuguese colonies in Southern Africa were Mozambique and Angola), the Frontline States coalition was established, to spearhead the liberation of southern African countries which were still under colonial rule.
Members of the Frontline States were five -- Tanzania, Angola, Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia. The founding father and the former Tanzanian President, the Late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere became the Chairman of the Frontline States coalition.
The Frontline States (FLS) were committed to ending apartheid and white minority rule in South Africa and the Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Namibia.
A few years later, Zimbabwe became independent, thanks to the concerted efforts advanced by the coalition to see the three southern African states becoming free.
After her independence, Zimbabwe joined the Frontline States. This made the number of the coalition members to be six.
They joined forces to push for the liberation of the remaining two southern African states, that is, Namibia and South Africa.
It was, however, discovered that there were some countries which were very much strategic in the liberation struggle, but unfortunately their economies heavily depended on South Africa.
So to make the liberation agenda successful, other countries like Swaziland (now Eswatini) and Lesotho had to join the group.
Imagine, even Mozambique which was already free still depended on South Africa.
We also had other countries like Zimbabwe and Angola whose economies greatly depended on South Africa.
You can now see how this work became so tough…when these countries tried to help the African National Congress (ANC) and South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) of Namibia; they were heavily punished by South Africa.
Citizens from these countries earned a living by working in the mines in South Africa.
The Boers then put a lot of restrictions and barriers on them.
As the struggle intensified, South Africa even stopped using Mozambique’s ports and from time to time engaged in physical attacks, sabotaging their economies, attacking oil terminals, destroying their farms…..as this was not enough, Boers started backing rebel groups such as Mozambique’s RENAMO and Angola’s UNITA.
I recall an incident where commandoes from South Africa entered Tanzania and tried to attack the Selander Bridge in Dar es Salaam. After all these hindrances, the Frontline States ordered their foreign affairs ministers to meet and discuss the way forward, this was in May 1979.
They agreed that the economics ministers from all member states immediately meet for further steps.
Consequently, the ministers convened in Arusha, Tanzania, in August 1979 to consider economic policies and objectives. After this meeting, Frontline States met in Lusaka, Zambia in April 1980 whereby the recommendations from the Arusha’s high-level ministerial meeting were submitted before the coalition’s heads.
From the summit, Lusaka Declaration towards Economic Liberation was formed and this is what gave birth to the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC).
The principal objective of this SADCC was to reduce economic dependence, particularly on the Republic of South Africa.
The member states of SADCC were Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Tanzania’s Nyerere remained the chairman of the Frontline States, while Botswana’s Seretse Khama chaired the SADCC.
In 1992, heads of governments of the region agreed to transform SADCC into Southern African Development Community (SADC) with the focus on integration of economic development.
South Africa acceded to the SADC treaty in August 1994 at the Heads of State Summit in Gaborone, Botswana.
The main objectives of SADC were four to achieve development and economic growth, alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the people of southern Africa and support the socially disadvantaged through regional integration.
After joining SADC, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela informed member states that he was going to lead his country as a president for only one term.
To honour his struggle for South Africans, SADC members handed chairmanship to him and he led the regional group for three years. Thereafter, leadership structure became rotational after every one year. South Africa became the eleventh country to join the regional group and later in 1996 Mauritius joined.
DR Congo and Seychelles booked their places in 1996.
Later on Madagascar and Comoros got admission to the bloc. After taking you back to the history of SADC, now let me briefly respond to your question.
My assessment of 27 years of SADC….. We have recorded a lot in this regional bloc; we witnessed smooth transition from SADCC to SADC… There was no any problem and of course even now we haven’t heard any state of discontent from any member.
There is a well-established system that allows every member state to lead, organize and coordinate the regional group activities and things are moving so smoothly.
There has been successful formation of two programmes on economics and politics --Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) and Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ on Defence, Politics and Security (SIPO).
SIPO’s main objective is to create a peaceful and stable political and security environment through which the region will realize its objectives of socioeconomic development, poverty eradication and regional integration.
While the RISDP bases on the SADC vision, mission, common agenda and principles, it is a 15-year regional integration development frame work, setting priorities, policies and strategies for achieving long-term goals of the bloc.
Again, save for a few cases, SADC does not experience a lot of conflicts and when any problem or instability rises in any country, member states join forces to quell the situation.
Furthermore, all member states are also doing better in economic integration, a lot is being done in this area especially to remove trade barriers among SADC member states.
EAC (East African Community) has already recorded many achievements in this area. SADC countries are also still struggling to take this route…I think member states in this bloc only need to work harder in this area.
Q: Is the organ still relevant?
A: Yes, I can confidently say that this organ (SADC) is still very relevant. This is due to the fact that objectives behind its establishment are what our African governments are trying to achieve, even now. We all talk about development and economic growth, poverty alleviation, enhancing standard of life as well as supporting socially disadvantage people. These are still the top agendas of our governments.
Q: This is the second time Tanzania holds the chairmanship of SADC. The first time was in 2003, when you were the Foreign Affairs Minister. What experience do you have to share?
A: ha ha ha...a rough experience…. Let me tell you one thing, in 2002 we had SADC Summit in Angola then Zimbabwe volunteered to host the next meeting. I recall that time, diplomatic relation between Zimbabwe and other countries was not promising.
At the heart of the discussion, emerged a concern that there is one country that has never hosted the summit ---and that country was Tanzania.
Subsequently, the summit unanimously agreed that the conference had to be held in Tanzania. Imagine a situation where you are expected to host 16 heads of state and you don’t have adequate conference venues… it was someway tough! See…in Dar es Salaam, we had a lot of hotels but no enough venues while in Arusha there were state-of-the-art venues but no enough hotels!
President Benjamin Mkapa and I (as Foreign Affairs Minister) were like….how? ….Come hell or high water the summit had to take place, and we hosted them…and the conference was so successful.
We managed to secure a place at Golden Tulip Hotel and at Diamond Jubilee Hall…Of course, things went fine beyond expectation. Q: Any advice to the sitting Foreign Affairs Minister? A:
This is a big task to Prof Palamagamba Kabudi. I know there is also SADC organ on Politics, Defense and Security which is managed on a Troika basis and is responsible for promoting peace and security in the region.
The duty of this organ is basically to advise but the major role remains on Tanzanian side as the chair of the summit. I’m sure he is going to efficiently and effectively do the job. I wish him all the best
Q: What does it mean to be the chair of the regional body?
A: Well, being SADC chair above all means that from this year to next August, Tanzania is going to be the voice of the regional body.
However, there is no a lot of activities as being the chair of the Troika.
The SADC Summit and Organ Troika Summit are mutually exclusive --and the chairperson of the organ does not simultaneously hold the chair of the summit.
Again, it must be understood that being SADC summit chair, Tanzania will be responsible for speaking on behalf of other member states at the international forums such as in African Union (AU), the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
After assuming the SADC chairmanship, even our ambassadors will be the ones responsible for chairing SADC caucuses at the international forums.
Q: The theme for this year meeting is “Conducive Business Environment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development. What do you think Tanzania should do to achieve this?
A: For Tanzania to achieve this, the government must create a favourable environment for private sector to carry out its activities uninterruptedly.
We are now eyeing industrial economy, it should be clearly understood that it is not the role of the government to set up industries, but instead it is only supposed to create and put in place necessary infrastructures and investor-friendly environment.
Almost all countries in the SADC region except Mauritius are lowly ranked in the ‘ease of doing business’ indices developed by the World Bank, World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.
We have to make sure that we work on such reports and see the recommendations on what we can do to improve.
Q: We (Tanzania) are members of both the EAC and the SADC. Can this situation result into a conflict of interest?
A: Yes we are in the EAC. At the same time we are in the SADC...there are other countries which are also in the COMESA.
There is no problem with this. Not even conflict of interest.
We just have to utilise such opportunities. In fact, it is a right move being a member of more than one regional integration, this situation must be capitalised on for sustainable economic development.
We had even agreed earlier to form tripartite agreement covering Africa’s three regional communities - the COMESA, EAC and SADC … the main aim was to accelerate economic integration for the people of the Eastern and Southern African region.