SADC Deliberately Avoided Discussing Zimbabwe And Mozambique In A Virtual Meeting Due To Security Concerns
18 August 2020
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Own Correspondent 

Zambian President Edgar Lungu attending the SADC virtual meeting with his cabinet.

The 40th Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was held virtually on the 17th August 2020.

Important regional decisions ought to have been made at the 40th ordinary summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on Monday. Like whether to send a SADC force into Mozambique to help that country fight and contain a jihadist insurgency in the north. And how to stop the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe from unravelling and spilling over into the region.

The SADC is not good at making big decisions at the best of times. And holding the organisation’s first virtual summit under Covid-19 conditions was not the best of times. Diplomatic sources told Daily Maverick that the governments of the 16 member states had decided beforehand not to discuss sensitive issues – like Mozambique and Zimbabwe – remotely for fear of security breaches.

But even within those severe constraints it was an unilluminating gathering. As usual with such summits, even before Covid-19, most of it took place in camera. Or perhaps, one should say in these strange times, off-camera. But the opening and closing ceremonies were supposed to be open. Yet the transmission was so atrocious that it was almost impossible to hear what anyone said at the opening ceremony.

Either the closing ceremony didn’t happen, or if it did, it wasn’t transmitted. Or not so anyone could pick it up. There was no press conference, which was not surprising. There is no reason – apart perhaps from the likely terrible transmission – why SADC couldn’t have held a virtual press conference. But like some other organisations, SADC had obviously decided to use Covid-19 as a cover for keeping the media and the public safely distant not only from possible infection, but also from any sensitive information.

Mozambique was first referenced in the communique after the summit, obliquely when it said, “Summit received an Assessment Report on emerging Security Threats in the Region, commended the Secretariat for the Detailed Report, and directed the Secretariat to prepare an action plan for its implementation, that will among others, prioritize measures to combat terrorism, violent attacks and cybercrime; and to address adverse effects of climate change.”

More directly, the communique said, “Summit welcomed the decision by the Government of the Republic of Mozambique to bring to the attention of SADC the violent attacks situation in the country, and commended the country for its continued efforts towards combating terrorism and violent attacks.

“Summit expressed SADC solidarity and commitment to support Mozambique in addressing the terrorism and violent attacks, and condemned all acts of terrorism and armed attacks.”

This really took matters no further than the statement after SADC’s Organ on Politics, Defence and Security had met in Harare and also expressed SADC’s “solidarity and commitment” to support Mozambique’s fight against the jihadist insurgency in the north of the country – but without offering specifics.

There was no reference to Zimbabwe at all in Monday’s communique.

Given the solidarity that exists among SADC’s 16 governments, that was not really surprising. Particularly as regional crises are dealt with, in the first place, by the Organ on Political, Defence and Security. The organ’s summit took place on Friday and it was chaired by Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, as Zimbabwe was then chairing the organ. So it’s hardly surprising that Zimbabwe didn’t come up.

Source: Daily Maverick 

Read the full communique below:

Communique of the 40th SADC Summit August 2020 -ENGLISH.pdf