From Patrick Chitumba in Victoria Falls
TWO presidents from Sadc countries bade the regional block farewell yesterday at the close of the 34th Ordinary Sadc Summit as their terms of office come to an end later this year.
Presidents Armando Guebuza and Hifikepunye Pohamba of Mozambique and Namibia respectively are leaving office later this year as their countries are holding general elections after serving their two terms in office as guided by their constitutions.
President Guebuza said the bloc was an important platform for regional development.
“We are really grateful to the member states in Sadc which have set in motion milestones for the intergration of the region and devised plans to make the bloc a capable body in dealing with matters of regional intergration and a stepping stone to economic development,” he said.
President Guebuza said he would always be grateful to President Mugabe and the people of Zimbabwe for their hospitality which he said has been there prior to his country attaining independence.
He saluted President Mugabe as being the only surviving leader to attend all the bloc’s sessions since the inaugural one in 1980.
“Thirty four years ago you (President Mugabe) were with the founding fathers and today you have been elected our chairperson. I pay homage to you for your dedication to the ideals of Sadc,” said President Guebuza.
“You reminded us of the epic journey (liberation struggle) which started in Tanzania. I was once detained here in Victoria Falls when I was preparing to alight from a train (at Victoria Falls Railway Station) and stayed in a police cell for a week and eventually after six months, we managed to visit Tanzania to start rebellion against our colonisers,” he said.
“So when I visit Victoria Falls, those memories are brought back reminding us of the solidarity and support we received from Zimbabwe and the region that led to the independence of our country.”
President Guebuza who was the chairperson of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, the post he has handed over to President Jacob Zuma of South Africa said he was stepping down from power after serving two five year terms in office.
In his farewell speech President Pohamba said it was imperative for Sadc to ensure that the noble intentions that are articulated in the signed protocols are transformed into practical outcomes for the benefit of the entire region.
“With regard to trade, I am proud that Sadc has established a Free Trade Area. It is encouraging that food security in the Sadc region has markedly improved.
“Moreover we now have a fully functioning Sadc electricity trading system. Several countries in the region are investing in the expansion of electricity generating capacity,” he said.
President Pohamba said the bloc had demonstrated that through unity of purpose and concerted action, it was able to overcome any challenges.
“Thirty-four years ago, the founders of Sadc articulated a vision for our people to march towards great unity and intergration.
“As I pass the mantle of leadership to the next president of Namibia, I urge the leaders and citizens of Sadc to continue walking in the footsteps of their predecessors towards universal integration, unity and harmony for our people,” he said.