Wednesday, September 11, 2013

(SUNDAY MAIL ZW) Grand welcome for President in Malawi
Saturday, 17 August 2013 23:00
Caesar Zvayi in LILONGWE, Malawi

President Mugabe received a rapturous welcome at the opening of the 33rd Ordinary Summit of Sadc Heads of State and Government at the Bingu wa Mutharika International Conference Centre here yesterday. Wild cheers and chants of ‘‘comrade!, comrade!’’ reverberated across the auditorium when the master of ceremonies introduced President Mugabe, prompting him to rise again to pump his right fist into the air in acknowledgment, drawing wild applause from delegates and handshakes from his colleagues at the top table.

The welcome set the stage for the congratulatory messages that characterised the opening ceremony.

First to the podium was outgoing Sadc executive secretary Dr Tomaz Salomao, who gave a valedictory speech, thanking the region for the support it gave him during his eight-year tenure at the helm of the secretariat that he will today leave to Dr Stergomena L. Tax.

Dr Tax, who is the permanent secretary in Tanzania’s Ministry of East African Co-operation, beat Mr Peter Simon, the Minister of Investment, Natural Resources and Industry of the Seychelles, to become the first woman to head the secretariat.

Dr Salomao was followed by host President and incoming Sadc chairperson Dr Joyce Banda who also congratulated President Mugabe and Zanu-PF for a resounding electoral victory, saying Zimbabwe should always count on Malawi’s support.

‘‘We wish to congratulate President Robert Gabriel Mugabe and the people of Zimbabwe for conducting peaceful elections and free elections. We wish to assure the President and people of Zimbabwe of our continued support as a member of this (Sadc) family,’’ she said.

Next up was African Union Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who said the AU will always deploy election observers wherever elections are held in order to have first-hand information.

‘‘In this regard, we would like to congratulate the people of Zimbabwe for having a free and peaceful election,’’ Dr Zuma said.
The AU deployed long-term and short-term observer missions to the harmonised elections, with the latter led by former Nigerian president General Olusegun Obasanjo who endorsed the polls while Dr Zuma dismissed MDC-T rigging claims, saying no such issues were brought to their attention after meeting the party leadership in Harare.

Outgoing Sadc chairperson President Armando Emilio Guebuza was next on the podium and also congratulated President Mugabe and Zanu-PF for resoundingly winning the harmonised elections.

After the opening speeches, President Guebuza handed the chairpersonship badge to President Banda who, in her acceptance speech, pledged to bring Sadc closer to the people.

Zimbabwe’s pole position in literacy in Africa was on show when Tarrens Muradzikwa, an Upper Sixth science student at Marist Brothers in Nyanga, scooped the first prize in the Secondary Schools Essay Competition for the second year running, pocketing US$1 500 plus a Samsung Galaxy cellphone.

Third prize went to Precious

Nemutezi, a Lower Sixth science student at St Dominic’s in Mutare. Nemutezi pocketed US$750 plus a Samsung Galaxy cellphone.

The two pupils attributed their success to God, their schools and personal drive to excel in whatever they do. After the awards, the leaders broke for lunch after which they retreated into a closed session to tackle a broad agenda that included discussing a report of the Ministerial Task Force on Regional Economic Integration that was mandated to work on a roadmap for the proposed launch of the Sadc Customs Union, pursuant to deepening integration and promoting the smooth movement of goods and services across the region through the removal of non-trade barriers.

The launch of the union was initially scheduled for 2010. However, member countries asked for more time to first implement the Sadc Free Trade Area that was launched in August 2008.

The report on the Sadc Infrastructure Investment Summit, held in Mozambique in June, was also on the agenda.

With regards to the political situation in the region, the leaders were to receive a report from the outgoing Troika chairperson, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania.

Contrary to reports in some sections of the media, Zimbabwe was not on the agenda apart from the passing mention hailing the harmonised elections, which were endorsed as credible by a 573-member Sadc Election Observer Mission.

The leaders were also set to receive a report on the Sadc Tribunal that was disbanded in 2010, following an order by the Sadc Summit for an independent review of its functions and terms of reference. This was after it passed questionable decisions regarding the progressive land reform and resettlement programme in Zimbabwe.

Summit last year directed that the Protocol on the Sadc Tribunal and Rules of Procedure thereof be negotiated and the jurisdiction of the new Tribunal be confined only to an advisory role and interpretation of the Sadc Treaty and any protocols that may be negotiated among member states.

The Summit enters the second and final day today.

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