The regional economic bloc – SADC – is going for its annual summit next week in Swaziland. It will culminate with a change of leadership, with the host country’s leader King Mswati assuming leadership from Botswana President Ian Khama. Opinions have been many and varied about the looming take-over of Mswati, with some feeling that the absolute monarch should not be rewarded with the seat for his undemocratic practices. In Swaziland the king is the absolute ruler with opposition parties members and rights campaigners constantly denied platforms to raise their complaints against the poor governance. In Swaziland citizens are not allowed to form political parties and most of opposition leaders have been arrested while others fled to South Africa. Despite severe poverty ravaging his country, Mswati who prefers a lavish lifestyle financed by public coffers, recently purchased a second jet. It is a shame that with such a tainted image Swaziland will be the face of SADC for the next twelve months.
SADC as a regional body that seeks to promote democratization and freedom of member states and their people appears powerless. Khama himself received the baton from Robert Mugabe, another despot with questionable credentials, who has presided over attrocities meted out on his own people, which culminated in the country imploding just weeks ago. SADC leadership has turned a blind eye and ignored the plight of Zimbabweans. Calls by the civil society organisations under the banner of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition for intervention by African Union (AU) and SADC in particular fell on deaf ears. But why are we surprised? Like others say, SADC is just a talk shop where despots are running the show confident of protection from their buddies in the old boys club. Khama leaves a legacy punctuated with embarassing failure after he failed to turn the tide, despite being an open critic of the likes of Mugabe. All he has achieved is numerous meetings, where officials from the region made Gaborone their tourist destination to wine and dine in five star luxury while their people wallow in poverty back home.
Just when we thought SADC leadership had woken up from a deep slumber, and would finally earn their stripes due to their swift action to address political unrest in the smaller Lesotho and Madagascar, everything has come to naught. Instead the leadership has somersaulted on the promise made to bring peace and stability to Lesotho, as resolutions with far reaching implications have been replaced with a watered down version that now mollycoddles the wrong doers. Such is an abomination that deserves the harshest criticism. Further north, another member of the club Joseph Kabila of the DRC is pushing for the ammendment of the constitution to extend his stay in power. And as expected, there is a defeaning silence throughout the region in a typical hear no evil, see no evil fashion characteristic of SADC leaders. But then again, what did we expect really? ust like all who came before him Khama has also failed to make a difference as the leader of SADC.