- Outgoing chair Nyusi in today
- Diplomat to represent Zambia
Five presidents from the 16-member Southern African Development Community (Sadc) have arrived for the 41st Ordinary Summit of Sadc Heads of State and Government that officially opens today in Lilongwe with regional integration topping the agenda.
Madagascar President Andre Rajoelina led the way on Sunday evening. Next to jet in through Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) was Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi who touched down at 11.20 am on Monday on a presidential jet bearing his country’s national colours.
Masisi was followed by South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa who arrived at 1.30pm aboard a South African National Defence Force plane.
It was one of the busiest days for the air traffic control team at KIA as private jets, chartered planes and military planes queued in the sky awaiting instructions to touch down.
Next in line was President Emerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabawe who was followed by Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan—who will make her maiden attendance—and Namibia Vice-President Nongolo Mbumba.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Felix Tshisekedi was expected to arrive later on Monday while Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi, who is scheduled to hand over the chairmanship of the regional bloc to President Lazarus Chakwera, is scheduled to arrive at 5am today.
Zambia, which voted out President Edgar Lungu in the August 12 2021 general elections, will be represented by its Ambassador to Botswana and Sadc Secretariat Mwansa Kapeya.
The elections in neighbouring Zambia was another peaceful handover of power, meaning the region’s democratic traditions continue to be a shining light. However, the peace is dented by an Islamist insurgency causing havoc in neighbouring Mozambique, prompting the bloc to unleash a regional intervention force.
The leaders were welcomed by various Cabinet ministers and taken to Kamuzu Palace where Chakwera formally welcomed each of them.
At the airport, protocol officials blocked the visiting leaders from granting interviews to the media.
It was only Masisi who spoke to journalists upon arrival and discussed the elections in Zambia, the situation in Mozambique and regional trade talks.
The Botswana President, who is also chairperson of the Sadc Organ on Defense and Politics, clarified on reports of leadership of the intervention force in Mozambique, saying it will be led by a South African General who will be deputised by a Batswana.
He said: “Let me begin to clarify that there are no questions about the leadership of the Sadc forces in Mozambique. They are led by a South Africa Major General and deputised by a Botswana Brigadier General.
“I expect that in this summit we will get an update on the security situation in Mozambique, primarily provided by Mozambique itself.
“Since the launch of the Sadc standby force recently done by the President of Mozambique and myself, the motivation was very high. The other collaborative force, the Rwandan who were first to deploy, have registered some successes in the place of deployment.”
On Zambia elections, Masisi urged Zambians to “remain calm and resolute” in their commitment to development of their country.
He said: “I wish the very best to Zambia and very good warm welcome to the new president [Hakainde Hichilema]. I did send a message to President Lungu following the elections in Zambia.”
Masisi also said with the coming into force of the Africa Free Trade Agreement, he was looking forward to discussing regional integration as part of enhancing trade in the region.
Speaking in a separate interview, international relations expert Eddie Kalonga on said the summit will likely focus on the issues of mutual interests to the member States particularly regional integration.
He said: “Some of the issues that need attention for discussion at the Sadc conference obviously the strengthening and enhancement of regional ties in terms of regional integration, peace and security, with a focus in Mozambique [Carbo Delgado] digitalisation and related governance issues in respective countries.
“All in all, we Malawians are very happy and proud to attain the Sadc chairmanship that comes immediately after Malawi held a successful presidential election in 2020.”
Malawi is hosting the Sadc Heads of State and Government Summit for the third time after 1997 when it was held in Blantyre and 2013 hosted in Lilongwe.