2018 is the year for SADC to shine
2018 is, to the Chinese, the Year of the Dog. The Chinese year begins on 16 February and lasts up to 4 February 2019.
People born in the Year of the Dog are usually independent, sincere, loyal and decisive according to Chinese zodiac analysis. They are not afraid of difficulties in daily life. These shining characteristics make them have harmonious relationships with people around.
In Southern Africa, we do not name our years after animals or any other objects, but we are always hopeful for good tidings when we begin a new year.
This year is no exception and SADC nations look forward to better economic prospects which will in turn improve the livelihoods of the people of the region.
We expect all the 16-member SADC member states to take to another level the beneficiation of resources and the region’s Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap .
The region is endowed with vast mineral resources which, we believe, must be exploited to transform the economies of the member states.
From Angola to Zimbabwe, the SADC region is endowed with diamonds, emeralds, gold, platinum, copper, coal, oil, silver, chrome, nickel, just to mention a few minerals, and we believe these must be fully exploited with the proceeds channelled to the development of these countries.
Added to this is the world famed flora and fauna that have seen tourists flocking from around the globe, bringing with them the much-needed foreign currency.
But as we have said before, Africa is the richest continent in the world but has the poorest people on earth. Why must this continue?
We believe Southern Africa must lead the economic transformation of the continent and look forward to SADC members taking serious steps towards fully implementing the Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap in 2018.
This is because the roadmap has a long-term perspective, and is aligned to national, regional, continental and international dimensions.
The strategy recognises that for trade liberalisation to contribute to sustainable and equitable development, and thus to poverty reduction, it must be complemented by the requisite capacities to produce, and to trade effectively and efficiently.
The primary orientation of the strategy is the importance of technological and economic transformation of the SADC region through industrialisation, modernisation, skills development, science and technology, financial strengthening and deeper regional integration.
But for this strategy to work, we must hasten to point out that there must peace and tranquility in the region, whose member states must shun conflicts and abide by the principle of holding democratic elections when they are due.
Last year, there was peaceful transition of power in Angola and Lesotho after free and fair elections, supervised by SADC.
There was also peaceful transfer of power in Zimbabwe after long-standing ruler Robert Mugabe, in power since 1980, stepped down, paving the way for former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to take over the reins.
Elections are expected in Zimbabwe in the middle of the year and President Mnangagwa has promised that these would be free and fair.
We expect the same to happen in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where incumbent Joseph Kabila has announced that elections would be held in December.
But there is need for an end to violence in that country as this puts a blemish on the whole SADC region.
Yet it appears the security situation in the DRC keeps worsening by the day given events that took place at the beginning of the year when protesters clashed with security forces, resulting in the loss of lives.
Towards the end of last year, the DRC was again under the spotlight after Tanzanian UN peacekeepers were killed in that country.
The shooting of UN peacekeepers must be condemned and steps must urgently be taken to bring the perpetrators to book.
In this vein, we welcome the setting up of a probe team by the UN to investigate circumstances surrounding the killing of the “blue helmet” peacekeepers.
We believe SADC can only move forward and achieve its vision when there is peace and tranquility and when everyone puts their shoulders to the wheel.
Thus we cannot allow the region to go to the dogs and be torn apart by wars and conflicts.
SADC leaders must, therefore, be decisive in dealing with conflicts and continue to promote harmonious relationships within the region.
We believe that would pave the way for development.