Critical stage of Customs Union
Mosisili, who is also Lesotho Prime Minister, called on SADC to ensure the launch of the union by 2010, saying the year was significant for the regional grouping as South Africa would be hosting the World Cup soccer finals in that year.
Mosisili urged member countries to view the process towards the implementation of a Customs Union as a give-and-take affair because the long-term result would benefit all the countries in the region.
Officially opening the SADC Heads of State and Government Summit on regional integration held at Gallagher Estate, Mosilili said the region was currently addressing the implementation of the Free Trade Area (FTA), the launch of Customs Union by 2010, Common Market by 2015 and the Economic Union by 2018.
Mosisili said the region was also on course for the establishment of the FTA by the year 2008.
He informed the leaders that the FTA process had equally been under subject to mid-term review so that its implementation would be in line with the SADC protocol on trade.
Some of the key impediments in the implementation of the FTA process had been addressed in the report that would be handed over to the leaders during the summit, he said.
The meeting was a follow-up to the SADC heads’ proposal tabled at the previous summit in Maseru, Lesotho, at which they agreed to form a task force to look at ways of deepening economic integration in the region.
The heads of state in attendance included host South African President Thabo Mbeki, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi, Mozambique’s Armando Guebuza Festus Mogae of Botswana. Zambia was represented by Vice President Rupiah Banda.
Meanwhile, Mosisili observed that while the region had mechanisms for resolution of conflict, issues of democracy, politics, defence and security did not have a forum for regional economic integration.
He said at the continental level, the African Union was accelerating regional economic integration which, he said, should be solidified through economic communities at regional levels.
Mosisili said the economic communities were building blocks for a full integration of the continent.
The one-day summit also considered the report on the proposal by the AU for the establishment of an AU government.
Mosisili said while the region recognised the importance of setting up a continent-wide government, it would give its collective stance on the issue.
The SADC chair, who commended South Africa for being among the countries that will serve on the United Nations Security Council, pledged the region’s commitment to working with Mbeki’s government.
He said the benefits of serving on the organ would not only accrue to one country, but SADC and the entire continent too.
He noted that the SADC election observer mission had been sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo for this weekend’s presidential poll run-off pitting the incumbent Joseph Kabila against Jean-Pierre Bemba.
He expressed confidence that the elections would be run in a transparent manner and peaceful environment which would help in consolidating peace and stability in the DRC for the benefit of the country as well as SADC. ‘ Zanis-New Ziana.