Mugabe calls on region to reduce reliance on aid
While Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe received the SADC chairperson’s badge on Sunday, indications were that the regional bloc would limit cooperation with Western countries after he claimed foreign funding was compromising the independence of the body.
Mugabe, whose relationship with the West deteriorated after Zimbabwe embarked on a controversial land reform programme in 2000, told leaders that the region should not depend on cooperation partners for funding and should rather mobilise its own resources.
He suggested that SADC cut some of its programmes and only pursue programmes it could fund.
In his acceptance speech, Mugabe said SADC could not claim to be independent when the majority of its programmes were funded by foreign aid. About 60% of SADC’s programmes are externally funded.
“Our continued over-reliance on the generosity and goodwill of our cooperating partners tend to compromise our ownership and sustainability of SADC programmes. How can we proudly claim SADC to be our own organisation when close to 60% of our programmes are externally funded,” Mugabe asked.
“As SADC we should not lose sight of our regional integration agenda, our focus and priorities. We should not be tempted to introduce or embrace, too many programmes which, in the end, we fail to fund from our own resources.”
One of the agendas of the SADC summit is to review the Regional Integrated Strategic Development Programme to ensure development programmes in the region are more practical.
Mugabe said SADC should take advantage of the review to come up with fewer and more focused programmes.
“The review … should therefore result in a SADC with fewer and focused programmes that are core to our vision of regional integration, which is aimed at strengthening our economies and the improvement of the lives of the people of our region,” he said.
Mugabe said the theme of the conference “Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resource” – which echoes Zimbabwe’s five-year economic blueprint, Zimasset – had the potential to drive both short and long term regional objectives.
He said the beneficiation of SADC’s abundant resources would speed up the industrialisation of the region and create employment.
Botswana, Namibia and Mozambique will hold elections under Mugabe’s chairmanship. He said he hoped the elections would be done according to SADC principles and guidelines on democratic elections “as they have always done”.
He called for SADC, African and friendly countries to observe regional elections instead of interfering, calling these biased.
Zimbabwe held elections last year that were condemned by the European Union, US and other western organisations despite being approved by SADC, the African Union and most observer missions.
“As we saw in Zimbabwe, we of Africa know what the truth is, but there are others who think the truth can become untruth. And these are the people we don’t want. Why do they come if they are not objective?” he asked.
Mugabe also took the opportunity to take a swipe at Western countries for their inaction in the Middle East conflict.
“The Western world, which claims high moral ground on issues of human rights and the sanctity of life, have looked with moral and academic indifference while the Israeli army continues to butcher innocent women and children, all under the false guise of fighting terrorists,” he said.
“We have seen children being butchered, even attacks on schools, hospitals and even attacks on United Nations units. It never happens anywhere. Is Israel that so precious that it can’t be stopped or is it on the assumption that these children will be terrorists tomorrow or that these women will give birth for future terrorists?
“This is the most brutal demonstration of man’s humanity to man and it is criminal for the world to keep silent in the wake of such crimes against humanity,” he claimed.