SADC executive secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax says the region has taken the lessons learnt from the devastating impacts of Cyclones Idai and Kenneth seriously and measures to operationalize the SADC Disaster Preparedness and Response Mechanism are on ongoing.
During the 21st meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ (MCO) on politics, defence and security cooperation, Dr Tax expressed deepest condolences to the governments and peoples of the republics of Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Union of the Comoros, for the loss of lives, disruption of livelihoods, and widespread damage to socio-economic infrastructure, following the devastating impacts of the two cyclones earlier this year.
Dr Tax said SADC stands in solidarity with the affected member states.
He said effects of the cyclones point to an urgent need to strengthen preparedness, and respond in a coordinated and timely manner.
“These measures include, the operationalization of the SADC Disaster Preparedness and Response Fund, which goes hand-in-hand with a resource mobilisation strategy and sustainability plan; the establishment of the SADC Humanitarian and Emergency Operations Centre (SHOC); the development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for relief and recovery operations and a Regional Emergency Roster; the operationalization of the Regional Disaster Risk Information Management System; and mapping of disaster prone areas and available resource bases,” Dr Tax said.
He said those tools would be complimented with the activation of SADC Contingency Operations Plan (COP) for early warning under the SADC Standby Force.
Dr Tax said the secretariat was also mapping the entire disaster management value chain, with a view to putting in place a comprehensive and well-coordinated response mechanism.
He called upon SADC member states and partners to support the ongoing activities in operationalising the SADC Disaster Preparedness and Response Mechanism.
Dr Tax noted that since the last Summit held in August 2018, six member states, namely, the Kingdom of eSwatini, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Madagascar, the Comoros, Malawi and South Africa held elections.
He congratulated the respective member states and governments for the credible and peaceful elections, and for upholding SADC democratic principles.
“For the DRC, the historic and peaceful transfer of power was celebrated in, and outside the region, as it marked a new era for economic prosperity, peace, and political stability in the DRC,” Dr Tax said.
He thanked President Edgar Lungu, the chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence,
and Security Cooperation, supported by chairperson of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ, Joseph Malanji, the foreign affairs minister, for the exemplary leadership in steering the region, during the demanding electoral period.
Dr Tax also recognised the leadership provided by the SADC chairperson, Dr Hage Geingob, President of Namibia for ensuring serenity and the observance of principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity in the course of providing SADC support to the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“This year, the Republics of Botswana, Mauritius, Mozambique, and Namibia will also be going for elections. We count on the goodwill of SADC member states to send electoral observers as per SADC guiding principles, this will enable the region to remain on its democracy consolidation trajectory,” Dr Tax said.
And Dr Tax said terrorism was a matter of great concern in the SADC region and beyond.
He said organised crime also poses a significant threat to peace and security in the region, as it undermined regional economic integration.
“The gravity of terrorism, and the sophistication and cross border nature of Transnational Organised Crime, require joint efforts, and strong collaboration between Member States, and other partners. To address these threats, the Secretariat in collaboration with Member States has developed a SADC Regional Counter Terrorism Strategy and an Action Plan,” Dr Tax said. “It is very critical that we continue to collaborate, in addressing these alarming threats. It is only through joint and concerted efforts that the region will be able to effectively address these threats. On a positive note, I am pleased to report that the revised SADC-INTERPOL Cooperation Agreement has been finalised for signature. The Agreement will assist in creating an ideal platform for collaboration between SADC and INTERPOL, and support to law enforcement in fighting Transnational Organised Crime.”
And Dr Tax said gender-based violence (GBV) continued to negatively impact on socio-economic development of the region.
He said in line with the MCO directive of August 2016, the Secretariat conducted a comprehensive study on the prevalence of gender-based violence in the region.
“The study among others shows that GBV is a common phenomenon in SADC, prevalence rates vary across Member States. Physical violence ranges between 6 per cent to 34 per cent, sexual violence ranges between 4 per cent to 26 per cent, and emotional violence ranges between 15 per cent to 37 per cent,” said Dr Tax. “To mitigate and prevent the incidences of gender-based violence, the study recommends a number of measures, including to strengthen access to justice for victims and survivors of GBV by creating innovative, and providing alternative solutions including, GBV specialised courts.”
And Malanji said Zambia had been closely associated with SADC since its inception.
Malanji said not only was Zambia the birthplace of SADC, known then as the Southern Africa Development Coordination Conference, (SADCC), it was also home to several liberation movements across the region.
He said hosting the meeting therefore reinforces Zambia’s traditional role as a strong advocate for peace and contributor to stability and security efforts in the region.
Malanji said he was confident that those SADC member states scheduled to hold elections later in the year would proceed accordingly and ensure that political stability was maintained in the region.
“However, we remain alive to the emerging threats in the region such as terrorism, transnational organised crime and climate change. As you may be aware, terrorism instils fear and creates a sense of helplessness in people. It also results in, among others, injury, death, destruction of property and disruption to political systems,” he said.
He said the effects of the changing weather patterns had most recently brought severe flooding and drought situations in many of our countries.
“We, therefore, need to redouble our efforts in implementing the necessary measures to mitigate and adapt to the reality of climate change. I hope this session will also have fruitful discussions on the way forward on initiatives to address Free Movement of Persons considering the fact that the region’s potential to becoming an industrial hub lies in its ability to utilise its human resources,” said Malanji.