SANF 21 no 29 – by Clarkson Mambo
Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax made history by becoming the first woman and sixth Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community in 2013.
And for eight years, she ably steered the Secretariat of the regional organization, which she bid farewell to at its 41st Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government in Malawi on August 17-18.
Dr Tax steps down in the very same city where she was appointed to lead the organization nearly a decade ago.She took over from Tomaz Augusto Salomão of Mozambique, who had served two four-year terms as SADC Executive Secretary.
“It started well and is ending well here in Lilongwe. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity and guidance and support that you rendered to me during my tenure,” Dr Tax told the Summit.
“I am proud of what the region has achieved over the eight years under Your Excellencies stewardship. I am grateful for the wealth and experience that I have acquired over the eight years, which I will always treasure.”
Before her appointment, SADC had only had male Executive Secretaries since its establishment in August 1992 when it was then known as the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC).
Since then, the region has made significant progress in regional development and integration, reprioritizing its agenda toward industrialization and empowering women in all spheres of life.
“There is still ground to be covered but with excellent leadership and a commitment that the region has to women empowerment, that will be achieved,” she said.
Unity is an imperative in facing past and future challenges, the outgoing Executive Secretary said.
“I am and will forever be proud of the unity exhibited by SADC Member States, it gave me a sense of belonging and identity,” Dr Tax said. “I am very proud of SADC resilience and unity when confronted with such adversities.”
Among her long list of achievements, Dr Tax oversaw the formulation of SADC Vision 2050 and the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan 2020 -2030 which were approved by Summit in August 2020.
“It is imperative that these policies are used to transform our region to achieve “The SADC We Want. I am confident that the Secretariat, under my successor will drive regional integration through this strategic framework for the betterment of the region,” she said.
The SADC Emergency and Humanitarian Centre and the Hashim Mbita Project which documents the liberation history of southern Africa were also launched during her tenure.
The region largely remained peaceful and consolidated democracy, with SADC having played a key role in addressing security challenges in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini and Mozambique.
In the economic sphere, major milestones including an increase in intra-SADC trade from around 16.3 percent in 2008 to 21.6 percent in 2016, as well as major initiatives in trade and customs, infrastructure development were undertaken.
The Kazungula Bridge between Botswana and Zambia was commissioned in May 2021. New policies and strategies for disaster management, in HIV and AIDS management, gender mainstreaming, food and nutrition were also put in place during her eight-year tenure.
Dr Tax said the region needs a dynamic and efficient Secretariat to achieve its goals.
“A vibrant and dynamic Secretariat facilitates a vibrant and dynamic SADC,” she said.
As she departs, Dr Tax said the region must honour its founders, who paved the way for the successes that it is now enjoying.
“It is befitting that SADC recognizes their contribution and in acknowledging their contributions in August 2020, the SADC Summit approved a mechanism to honor the founders of SADC,” she said.
“May I implore the SADC Members States to operationalize the mechanism which will ensure that the history of SADC and the legacy of founding fathers remain engraved in the history of our organization and is imparted to the generations to come.”
The 41st SADC Summit appoints a new Executive Secretary, who will head the SADC Secretariat for the next four years. The SADC executive secretary is responsible for strategic planning, coordination and management of the regional organisation’s programmes. sardc.net
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