Monday, March 30, 2009

SADC Summit Opens Today in Swaziland

Sadc summit opens today

From Caesar Zvayi in MBABANE, Swaziland
Zimbabwe Herald

A SADC Extraordinary Summit to consider an economic recovery package for Zimbabwe and the political situation in Madagascar begins here, today with the full complement of Sadc leaders expected to be in attendance.

President Mugabe, who left for the summit yesterday afternoon, was met at Matsapa International Airport by Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Mozambique Agrippa Mutambara, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and senior Swazi government officials.

President Mugabe joins other heads of state and government at the Swazi Royal Villas for the one-day Extraordinary Summit.

The summit is very significant in that Sadc leaders, who have condemned the illegal economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, are taking practical steps to mitigate their effects.

Minister Mumbengegwi, Finance Minister Tendai Biti and Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube were already in Swaziland as part of the advance team that attended the Council of Ministers meeting.

Sources who attended the meeting said the outlook on the US$2 billion package was bright as most countries had pledged assistance to Zimbabwe.

Analysts, however, say the value of the package does not lie in monetary terms, but in the political statement Sadc will make by unveiling a package to fight the illegal sanctions.

At the Extraordinary Summit held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, two years ago — which began the process towards an inclusive Government in Zimbabwe — Sadc leaders pledged an economic rescue package to help Zimbabwe undo the damage wrought by the illegal economic sanctions imposed by some Western nations.

The Sadc Council of Ministers, who met in Cape Town, South Africa, earlier this month, endorsed Zimbabwe’s request for a US$2 billion package split into two disbursements of US$1 billion each.

The first US$1 billion, which the finance ministers immediately pledged to mobilise after their Cape Town meeting, aims to stimulate retail and related industries; while the second tranche aims to boost social service delivery by addressing the dire situation in education, health, local authorities and infrastructure development.

The Government said it needed the US$2 billion — half of it in the form of credit and the other half in the form of development budget support — to jump-start the economic recovery programme.

The regional bloc has also expressed readiness to assist Zimbabwe normalise relations with the Bretton Woods institutions — the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund — which cut off lines of credit to Zimbabwe as part of the illegal Western economic sanctions.

The IMF has since commended Government for taking positive steps towards restoration of relations with the multilateral lending institution.

In its report released last week after an Article IV Consultative Mission held from March 9 to 24, the IMF Mission led by Mr Vitaliy Karamenko hailed Zimbabwe for taking steps towards re-integration into the international financial system: a development that might culminate in new loans for reconstruction and restoration of voting rights.

To this end Sadc, along with the African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and Non-Aligned Movement, has called for the lifting of the sanctions.

The Extraordinary Summit will also be seized with the turmoil in Madagascar where illegal regime change occurred two weeks ago.

Sadc, through its chair, President Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa, has since condemned the unconstitutional transfer of power in Madagascar saying the bloc does not recognise the new leader, 34-year-old ex-DJ Andry Rajoelina.

Ousted Madagascan leader Marc Ravalomanana has been invited to the summit in the clearest indication yet that Sadc has rejected Rajoelina’s unconstitutional regime.

The Council of Ministers proposed imposing sanctions against Rajoelina and the military top brass who helped him oust elected leader Mr Ravalomanana, who is exiled in Swaziland.

President Mugabe was yesterday seen off at Harare International Airport by Vice President Joice Mujuru, State Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda and service chiefs among other senior Government officials.

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