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Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi’s full address to the media yesterday on preparations for the 34th Sadc Summit to be held in Victoria Falls next month.

We thought we should get together just to give you a briefing on the preparations for the hosting of the Sadc Summit which is only a month away.

As you know, His Excellency President R. G. Mugabe was elected the Vice Chair of Sadc in August last year. This carried a number of responsibilities. The most important being the responsibility to host the 2014 Summit at which Summit His Excellency President R. G. Mugabe will assume the Chairmanship of Sadc.

He will take over from Malawi, from President Professor Peter Arthur Mutharika.

Of course, for Zimbabwe this is a great honour that this very important responsibility has been bestowed upon our President.

What this means is that for the next three years, Zimbabwe will be playing an important role in the leadership of Sadc.

Already, Zimbabwe had been playing a role as Vice Chairperson up to August. Then from August 2014 to August 2015, Zimbabwe will be holding the Chair.

Then from August 2015 to 2016 Zimbabwe will still be in the Sadc Troika as the outgoing Chair. Already as Deputy Chair, President Mugabe has had to chair a number of Sadc summits in situations where the current chair, Malawi, has not been able to chair.

So, as Chair of Sadc, it means that Zimbabwe will have to host all meetings of Sadc whether they would be at the Heads of State level, say Extraordinary Summit or meetings of Council of Ministers or ministerial meetings or senior officials, Zimbabwe will be the centre of Sadc activities for the next 12 months from August.

The venue of the Summit will be at Victoria Falls on the 17th and 18th. The Summit will be preceded by the meeting of the Council of Ministers from the 14th to the 15th of August and before that a meeting of senior officials will also be held to prepare the necessary documentation.

On the attendance, we expect a high level of attendance from all the other 14 members of the organisation. Altogether, we think we will be having something in the region of about 450 delegates from all the Sadc countries and we are expecting about 700 to attend the opening and closing sessions of the Summit.

On the status of preparations, we have set up a National Steering Committee chaired by Dr Ray Ndhlukula, who is the Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet and this has been meeting regularly.

So far they have met about eight or nine times to prepare for the Summit.

Just below the National Steering Committee, we have set up 10 sub-committees chaired by permanent secretaries to look at various aspects of the Summit.

We have been working very closely with the Sadc Secretariat in our preparations. The Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, has been here on two occasions and the Sadc officials have been here a number of times in order for us to consult with one another very closely to make sure everything is on track.

I can assure you that the preparations are on track. We are on schedule and everything will be in place by the time that the Summit is held.

All the logistics are in place, accommodation, transport, everything is now in place.

The theme of the Summit: as usual we have had a number of the themes in the past.

But this time we have selected a theme on the “Sadc Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Beneficiation and Value Addition”.

This theme has been selected very, very carefully because Zimbabwe believes very gly in the importance of beneficiating and value adding of our natural resources.

I think you have all head how President R. G. Mugabe has never stopped talking about this issue. Why should we always export our natural resources in their raw form?

By so doing, we only get about 10 percent of the value of our products whether they be in agriculture, mining or whatever, we lose a lot.

So, the question of value addition is critical not only to Zimbabwe but to the whole of Sadc, so in consultation with the Secretariat we have come up with this particular theme.

The Sadc region is endowed with resources, the same as Africa as a whole. Very rich in resources, but the paradox is that with such abundance of natural resources we are poor.

That’s the paradox. Why are we poor? Because we do not get the full benefit of our natural resources and this is the thrust we would want to champion not only during President Mugabe’s chairmanship of Sadc, but to be able to come up with strategies and programmes of action which can continue even after President Mugabe has left the chairmanship of the organisation because this is a critical area not only for Sadc but for the whole African continent and other developing countries.

So, this is a very important theme, a very important area which the Summit is going to discuss and debate.

Of course, apart from discussing the theme, there will also be other administrative aspects. The agenda is, of course, not yet finalised, but when it is finalised we will let you know.

But we will be getting a number of reports, especially the report on the Review of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan of Sadc which we are working upon and also a progress report on the New Protocol on the Sadc Tribunal.

As you know, the previous Sadc Tribunal got into difficulties on account of the manner in which it had been brought into force and now we are coming up with a new protocol which will be considered at the next Summit. We are also going to consider the appointment of the new Deputy Executive Secretary responsible for Finance and Administration.

And overall, the Summit will look at the political and economic situation in the region. We are very pleased that our region at present is very stable indeed.

The destabilisation which had been happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo has now been brought under control.

The armed forces of the DRC assisted by the Sadc Intervention Brigade were able to subdue the M23, the FDLR and the other negative forces in the region. So, this has been a great success in our region.

By way of conclusion, I want to assure you that we are very much on top of the situation, everything is on course, on schedule and we are looking forward to a very successful Summit.

And I must also indicate that the preparations have not been an effort by Government alone, but the corporate sector has also been very positive and very supportive as it should be.

We have had good teamwork and we will continue to work in that regard.

Source : The Herald