Fungi Kwaramba

Political Editor

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo, who is the outgoing chairperson of the SADC Ministerial Committee of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, yesterday called for the region to be innovative and put in place mechanisms that will ensure that challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic and threats to regional peace are dealt with “timeously, strategically, holistically and comprehensively”.

Speaking at the 22nd virtual meeting of the SADC Ministerial Committee of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, Dr Moyo said the region should pluck a leaf from the new normal that has been spawned by the novel pandemic through innovation.

“Our meeting reflected upon the most pressing challenges to peace and security and the changing security landscape in our region. We took cognisant of the new and emerging threats to regional peace, security and stability caused by among other things poverty and deprivation, natural disasters such as Covid-19 and Ebola, trans-border security challenges, cybercrimes and migration crimes. It is expedient that we have commenced deliberations on these important issues, some of which are potentially an existential threat to our region,” said Minister Moyo.

He further called upon the Sadc Secretariat to continue updating member states on the best way forward in the wake of emerging threats to regional peace and stability.

“We need to be innovative in the way we do our business, some of the pressing issues we are facing, which will confront us in the future will require some slight departure, even from the virtual platform which has almost became the norm,” he said.

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 reconfigure 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 a 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.