Southern African leaders to arrive in Angola for summit

16th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Southern African leaders were Tuesday due to arrive in Angola's capital for a summit held against a backdrop of regional instability, with ongoing political turmoil and popular unrest in several countries.

The 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) is facing calls for less talk and more action on a range of issues at its two-day summit in Luanda, ranging from protracted political deadlocks in Zimbabwe and Madagascar to recent crackdowns on anti-government protests in Malawi and Swaziland.

"Notwithstanding its challenges, SADC strives for the achievement of regional integration in the knowledge that it is a fundamental condition for sustainable development of the region," the South African foreign ministry said in a statement.

South Africa's President Zuma is among the leaders to attend the summit, which is also expected to give an overview of the global economic situation and the performance of the SADC economy, said the statement.

During the summit, South Africa will assume chair of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security and Angola will take over from Namibia the chairmanship of the regional bloc.

South Africa said SADC continues to serve as the primary vehicle to achieve regional development and integration within southern Africa.

"As a member of SADC, South Africa knows that its future is inextricably linked to the future of the African continent and that of its neighbours in Southern Africa," the statement said.

Regional leaders are under pressure to act on a laundry list of tricky issues, including Zimbabwe, the recent deadly protests in Malawi, the ongoing political impasse in Madagascar and Swaziland's financial crisis.

The Zimbabwe crisis has divided the SADC between liberation leaders who were comrades-in-arms with members of President Rober Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and a new generation of politicians riding on the agenda of democracy and good governance.

Mugabe and his Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai remain at loggerheads over new elections, with Mugabe insisting polls go ahead this year with or without a new constitution.

On the other hand Tsvangirai wants the reforms agreed to in their power-sharing pact implemented first.

A meeting of the SADC's security troika in March tacitly chastised Mugabe for dragging his feet on the power-sharing deal and for ongoing political violence against Tsvangirai's supporters.

Both leaders were expected to attend the summit.

In July, the normally stable Malawi was rocked by anti-government protests that left 19 people dead.

After the unrest, the SADC sent an observer mission to the country, which will report back at the summit.

President Bingu wa Mutharika, who has presided over a major economic slump, earlier this year cost the impoverished country its largest foreign donor by expelling Britain's envoy to Malawi over a leaked cable that referred to the Malawian leader as "ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism."

Swaziland's king, Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch, is facing growing opposition to his regime amid a financial crisis that saw the country almost run out of funds before getting a temporary reprieve with a 2.4-billion-rand ($330-million, 232.8-million-euro) bailout loan from South Africa this month.

© 2011 AFP

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