Kizito Sikuka in Windhoek, Namibia
No matter how one would want to look at it, the annual summit of southern African leaders which begins tomorrow will be momentous in more ways than one.
For the first time in history, none of the Founding Fathers of the Southern African Development Community (sadc) will participate during the 38th sadc Summit.
sadc, formerly the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), was established on April 1, 1980 by leaders and representatives of nine then independent countries — Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe — to forge closer alliance.
The last leaders from this golden generation to participate in a sadc summit were former presidents José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe in August 2017, when South Africa hosted the regional summit.
Mugabe and dos Santos resigned as presidents of their countries in November and August 2017, respectively.
Other sadc Founding Fathers have passed on, with the exception of these two and the first post-independence president of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda.
However, despite the change of guard, most of the current crop of sadc leaders has pledged to continue advancing the work and ideals of their predecessors in pushing forward the regional integration agenda of southern Africa.
The ideals of sadc are towards a common future within a regional community that will ensure improvement of standards of living and quality of life, freedom and social justice, and peace and security for the people of southern Africa.
Another major event that will make the 38th sadc Summit momentous is the attendance by the Union of Comoros, the newest member of sadc.
The last member to join sadc was Seychelles in 1997.
Comoros was admitted as a sadc member state during the 37th sadc Summit held in South Africa.
However, the 38th sadc Summit will make the first time that the island country fully participates in a regional meeting.
The admission of a new member is an indication of the confidence shown in sadc, which is regarded as one of the most stable and attractive regional economic communities in Africa.
The admission of Comoros brings the membership of sadc to 16.
The other 15 member states are Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique Namibia, South Africa, Seychelles, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Addressing a sadc Council of Ministers meeting, which is held prior to the actual Heads of State and Government summit, the incoming chairperson of the council, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah welcomed Comoros “into the sadc family.”
“We would like to extend a special welcome to our brother Mohamed El-Amine Soufe, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Union of Comoros to the sadc family, representing his country as the new member of sadc,” said Nandi-Ndaitwah, who is the Namibian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.
Comoros is an archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean located at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel, off the eastern coast of Africa between north-eastern Mozambique and north-western Madagascar.
At 1 660 square kilometres in size, excluding the contested island of Mayotte which is claimed by France, the Comoros is the third smallest African nation by area, and has a population of about 798 000 people.
As a nation formed at a crossroads of different civilisations, the archipelago is noted for its diverse culture and history.
It consists of three major islands and numerous smaller ones, all in the volcanic Comoros archipelago.
It became part of the French colonial empire in the 19th century before becoming independent in 1975.
The 38th Summit of sadc Heads of State and Government, scheduled for August 17-18 in Windhoek, Namibia, is being held under the theme “Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development.”
The theme builds on the focus of the past four sadc Summits that sought to advance industrial development, and takes into account the need for adequate infrastructure to support industrialisation and the need to engage the youth, who are the bulk of the sadc population.
At the summit, Namibian President Hage Geingob will assume the sadc chair from his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa.