By ZBC Reporter
THE COVID-19 pandemic has altered the socio-economic landscape, peace and security within the SADC region, calling for concerted efforts from member states.
This was said by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Retired Lieutenant General Dr Sibusiso Moyo while addressing the 22nd SADC Ministerial Committee of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation this Thursday.
In his opening remarks addressing a video conference of the 22nd SADC Ministerial Committee of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Retired Lieutenant General Dr Sibusiso Moyo underscored the need by SADC member states to be innovative in the face of security challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“These emerging challenges call for the region to remain vigilant and innovative in devising ways of addressing the security impacts of COVID-19 in a holistic manner,” he said.
“Noting that the impacts of COVID-19 cut across sectors, Member States have put in place a number of measures that have significantly contributed to the containment of its spread, and in cushioning its negative impacts on SADC economies and livelihoods of citizens.
“May I commend SADC Member States for adopting a multi-stakeholder approach in addressing COVID-19, which is yielding positive results. This notwithstanding, as we battle with COVID-19, lives have been lost.
“May I express our condolences and solidarity with the SADC citizens who have lost their loved ones, and to governments of our Member States who have lost frontline workers due to COVID-19 and other causes.” he said.
Dr Moyo said SADC must consolidate its sovereign control over its political and government affairs through self-financing of its programmes.
“Whereas as a region we embrace regionalism, hand in hand with globalism and partnership principles, our definition of democracy is also premised on the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty. As part of the consolidation of democracy, SADC deploys Electoral Observation Missions to the Member States.
“In order to avoid compromising our sovereignty and territorial integrity, the deployment of SADC Electoral Observation Missions should be done through own financial and human resources. The ownership of our democratic processes provides us with an opportunity to collectively identify and address potential threats to peace and security, such as external interference and cybercrime, which include social media abuse, “he noted.
Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe, and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander Philip Valerio Sibanda attended the virtual meeting that was hosted by Zimbabwe as the chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation.
Minister Moyo, who will be succeeded by Botswana Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation, added that the Covid-19 pandemic and rising cases of extremism could also trigger challenges that negatively affect the region.
“As we continue to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic, we have had to accept that this unforeseen challenge will be with us much longer than anticipated and that it will also have a significant impact on lives and livelihoods. A preliminary analysis of the regional and global impact of COVID-19 paints a grim picture.
“In the region, the pandemic has either slowed down or halted the implementation of SADC programmes and projects that are critical to the development of our countries and the well-being of our peoples,” the Minister said.
Among other issues affecting the region, the meeting also focused on the consolidation of democracy in SADC, as well as reviewed the political and security situation in the region.
With threats to the region abound, particularly due to cybercrimes, and threats of terrorism, Minister Moyo said SADC should also review the scope of its Standby Force so that it will be able to respond to the emerging threats.
“It is also high time; we reviewed the scope and capabilities of the SADC Standby Force with a view to reconfiguring it to effectively respond to contemporary threats. While the SADC Standby Force has acquitted itself exceptionally well in peace support operations, it is yet to engage in formal conventional deployment. Its composition inevitably has to match prevailing threats.
“To this end, we need to build an embedded regional disaster response capability that is integral to the SADC Standby Force. We may also begin to consider the establishment of a Regional Peace Fund in order to avoid a last-minute rush in resource mobilisation prior to deployment,” said the Minister.
The meeting also touched on the recent elections in Malawi and other forthcoming elections in the region that will require monitoring and observing by the region.
“Our ability to deploy SADC Election Observation Missions will continue to be compromised by pandemics such as Covid-19. We are scheduled to have elections in the Republic of Seychelles and the United Republic of Tanzania during the last quarter of 2020.
“Consequently, this will require member states to be innovative in exploring viable options to ensure the conduct of elections and that our election observation missions are carried out without compromising the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections,” the minister said.
The SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation is a SADC arm mandated with supporting the achievement and maintenance of security and the rule of law in the region.