SADC: Which way?
The member countries have between now and August 9 in which to ratify some agreements or buy more time between this summit and the next one next year.
Representatives from the 13-member countries will have to tell the august gathering what efforts have been made back home in ensuring that intra-SADC agreements are being implemented.
For instance, SADC has a bunch of legal instruments called Protocols most of which are already in force although implementation is somewhat sluggish.
For instance, as regards the Protocol on Education and Training, both students and trainers still have hurdles in getting immigration clearance from individual countries where they intend to pursue their careers.
Visas and “security” fees are required in most instances, somewhat in contradiction to the protocol that came into force in 2000.
“Member States agree to facilitate movement of students and staff from the Region for purposes of study, research, teaching and any other pursuits relating to education and training. To this end, Member States agree to work towards the gradual relaxation and eventual elimination of immigration formalities that hinder free student and staff mobility,” reads section 6 of Article 7 of the Protocol.
South Africa, which has the vastest range of education opportunities in the region, has the strictest immigration formalities.
“My children always opt to remain in South Africa during school holidays because it is difficult for them to go back. They have to start all over again with immigration requirements as if they have just been accepted to college,” lamented an Angolan national who has two children at universities in Pretoria and Johannesburg.
The scenario is not different from other instruments which, if implemented, could be well meaning to regional integration.
The Trade Protocol that entered into force on January 25, 2000 is still not being implemented as expected.
Customs duty for goods originating from within the region has been not reduced but is rather increasing steadily.
Intra-region cross-border traders are still being restrained by high taxes, which could be a thing of the past if the protocol is fully implemented.
Article 4 of the Trade Protocol under subheading Eliminating of Import Duties says:
1. There shall be a phased reduction and eventual elimination of import duties, in accordance with Article 3 of this Protocol, on goods originating in Member States.
2. The process should be accompanied by an industrialisation strategy to improve the competitiveness of Member States.
3. The CMT (Committee of Ministers of Trade) shall adopt such measures as may be necessary to facilitate adjustment arising from application of this Article. The CMT shall review such measures from time to time.
4. Pursuant to paragraph 1, Member States shall not raise import duties beyond those in existence at the time of entry into force of this Protocol.
While a number of protocols already in force are not bearing any fruit as of now several others are yet to be ratified by all the member countries or at least by the required number for them to be in force.
Nine of the 34 protocols are still pending since not enough number of member countries have come forward to ratify them.
Some of those that could be deemed important include the SADC Mutual Defence Pact, SADC Protocol on Legal Affairs, Protocol on Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, Protocol on Extradition, Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons, SADC Charter of Fundamental Social Rights, SADC Protocol on Forestry, Agreement on the Establishment of the Zambezi Watercourse Commission and SADC Protocol Tribunal and Rules of Procedure.
The latter is to facilitate the establishment of the SADC Tribunal whose building is standing like a white elephant in Windhoek where it was officially opened last year. Its operational 10-member structure has already been put in place but the building is still vacant and gathering dust.
Once established, the Tribunal will ensure adherence to, and proper interpretation of the provisions of the SADC Treaty and subsidiary instruments, and to adjudicate upon disputes, referred to it by member countries.
The positive development regarding the protocols is that 25 of them have entered into force.
And if implemented and adhered to, the protocols shall bring home SADC regional integration aspirations like other regional groupings such as the European Union which has one currency and a parliament while its citizens have no borders and can work in any of the member countries and may go back to their home countries at the end of the day.
The current SADC chairman, President Festus Mogae of Botswana, will have a message to his colleagues in the region on how much progress the bloc has made before handing over to his counterpart Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili at the Summit.
They may firstly need to know the progress on the staff restructuring and the construction of the new SADC Headquarters in Gaborone.
Mogae is expected to give a keynote speech on the strides made in areas such as maintaining sustainable development, pursuing multilateral relations, ensuring protocol implementation, regional macroeconomic stability, financial market integration, investment promotion, infrastructure development and opening up of borders to facilitate the free movement of goods and services and other factors of production.
The president will also have to explain how the region has been adopting policies that enhance food production in order to avert hunger.
On HIV and AIDS, the summit will need to hear how the over last year since the previous assembly the policy options for mainstreaming HIV and AIDS and mitigating AIDS adverse have impacted on agriculture and food security.
Also there will be need to highlight whether member states have continued to roll out antiretroviral (ARV) programmes and prevention of the transmission of the virus from the mother to the child (PMTCT).
It will also be of interest to know how member states have strengthened voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) and surveillance of the epidemic as well as providing antiretroviral treatment (ART) to needy patients. And, of course, what percentages are accessing the life-prolonging drugs.