The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) leaders have urged the lifting of all forms of sanctions against Zimbabwe by the western government arguing that the country now has peace and stability.
SADC Chairperson, the Malawian President Joyce Banda disclosed this at the end of a two-day meeting in Lilongwe on Sunday.
The EU and US imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002 after accusing President Robert Mugabe of brutally cracking down on his opponents – a charge he rejected.
Mugabe who recently was re-elected in a landslide victory attended the summit and launched an outspoken attack to the West on arrival in Malawi’s capital.
“SADC calls upon the international community to review their position on sanctions following the progress being made in Zimbabwe,” said President Banda.
“The people of Zimbabwe deserve better and should not continue to suffer,” said Banda, the SADC chairperson.
SADC reiterated the call again in a four-page 36-point communiqué read at the summit.
The European Union (EU) has a travel ban in place again President Mugabe and nine other of officials of his Zanu-PF party and has sanctions imposed on two companies.
The US also has a travel ban on Mugabe and other top Zanu-PF officials, and has blacklisted companies linked to them from doing business with US companies.
However, President Banda quashed insinuations that the call for removal of sanctions will strain relations Malawi has with the western nations.
“What we are saying is that Zimbabwe has had free and peaceful elections and we have noted progress made on recently concluded the global political agreement. Sanctions hurt ordinary people most and not us,” Banda told journalists later at a media briefing.
Analysts say Southern African leader’s call is a victory for Mugabe — still revered by many as a hero of Africa’s liberation struggle. Mugabe has long argued against sanctions.
Outgoing Executive Secretary Dr Tomaz Augusto Salomao and Malawi’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ephraim Mganda Chiume flanked Banda at the news conference.
However, SADC is still inconclusive on the way it describes the recent elections in Zimbabwe held on July 31, 2013 only saying “they were fair and peaceful”
Botswana President Ian Khama is the only voice of dissent and last month called for an independent audit of the polls.
Both Presidet Banda and outgoing Executive Secretary Dr Tomaz Augusto Salomao said SADC is yet to receive Observer Mission reports hence it will described the Zimbabwe elections as such.
Mugabe received two thunderous ovations during salutations at the start of the summit on Saturday. He has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.
The summit also discussed the political developments in Madagascar where Andry Rajoelina, who took over power by force, withdrew from the forthcoming elections alongside former First Lady Lalao Ravolomanana and former president Didier Ratsiraka and six other also dominated the summit. These candidates threatened the holding of the elections.
“This is good news for the SADC region,” said Banda, adding: “This vindicates that the long and painful efforts of SADC through its mediator the former president of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano are paying dividends.”
But the summit expressed concern with what it called the “deteriorating security and humanitarian situation” in the eastern side of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the worsening situation in Egypt and called for the return of constitutional order in the troubled North African country.
“Summit deplored the loss of human lives and the destruction of property,” reads the communiqué. “It called on all parties involved to exercise maximum restraint and begin the process of dialogue and reconciliation and to urgently work towards the return of constitutional normalcy.”
Banda also paid tribute to her predecessor President Amando Geubuza of Mozambaique what she called “proactive leadership that has strengthen ties between Malawi and Mozambique.”
“The relationship between leaders has a bearing on how its people also relate,” she said.
Among other outcomes as outlined in the communiqué, SADC heads of State and Governments deplored the deposition of a duly elected government in Egypt and the recent slaying of more than 500 protestors.
“On Madagascar, summit noted with satisfaction the positive developments unfolding there especially with regard to the decision of the newly formed Special Electoral Court to withdraw nine presidential candidates from the presidential race.
“Out of the nine, the three namely Andry Rajoelina, Mrs Lalao Ravalomanana and Mr Didier Ratsiraka are also included,” reads part of the communiqué.
On the regional food security situation, in particular cereal, non-cereal, livestock and fisheries production, the summit noted that they would be a slight increase in these products.
“Thus we urge member states to scale-up the implementation of measures to increase agricultural production, reduce post-harvest losses and improve overall food production in line with the Dar-es-Salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security,” it said.
On HIV and AIDS, SADC urged member states to continue intensifying the mobilization of domestic resources to ensure sustainable financing for scaling up HIV and AIDS interventions.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :