Legal frameworks key for deeper integration

SANF 22 no 04 – by Kizito Sikuka
The SADC Executive Secretary Elias Magosi has called on Member States to pass national laws to support regional integration as all legal instruments are critical in deepening integration and promoting sustainable development in the region.

The slow pace by some SADC Member States to advance these regional laws from being stated intentions to actual application has affected integration, resulting in most people failing to achieve maximum benefits of belonging to a share community in southern Africa.

The Executive Secretary emphasised this point in addressing a virtual meeting of the SADC Committee of Ministers of Justice/Attorneys General on 25 January, noting that the SADC Board of Auditors has already mentioned the slow pace at which Member States sign, ratify and accede to regional protocols and other legal instruments.

“All these instruments were developed and approved for a purpose, to move this region forward to achieve its goals under the SADC Common agenda, and I believe they still remain important and relevant,” said Magosi, who started his work as the new SADC Executive Secretary in August 2021.

According to SADC legal statutes, any signed regional protocol should be ratified by member countries for it to enter into force at national level in the 16 member states.

At least two-thirds of the Member States (10 of 16) are required to ratify a protocol for it to enter into force.

The process of approval of a regional legal instrument requires, first, signing, and then ratification – a process that differs from country to country, with some requiring approval of parliament.

Magosi said any obstacles that may hinder countries to advance regional laws from being stated intentions to actual application should be tackled head-on to ensure that SADC achieves its longstanding goals of a united, prosperous and integrated region.

“We all need to work doubly hard to remove bottlenecks and deal with challenges, including those with sovereignty considerations.”

Magosi said the Secretariat will not lose focus of the main goal of SADC, which is regional integration, adding that steadfast support from a legal standpoint will also strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of the Secretariat.

The Secretariat is the principal executive institution of SADC responsible for strategic planning, facilitation and coordination and management of all SADC Programmes.

“One of the commitments I made in assuming the role of the Executive Secretary, is to ensure delivery of the RISDP towards attainment of the SADC Vision 2050, and if in the process to achieve this, there are processes or areas that need review to realise efficiency and effectiveness of the Secretariat, and that of Member States, we ought to work jointly to enhance these.

“Your support to the Secretariat in this regard, especially from the legal stand point, will be crucial.”

In their efforts to strengthen and promote a conducive legal framework to advance regional integration, SADC Committee of Ministers of Justice/Attorneys General at their meeting considered a number of draft legal instruments and recommended them for approval by the SADC Council of Ministers and subsequently, the SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government.

These instruments include the Draft Agreement Amending the SADC Treaty, which is intended to recognise the SADC Parliament as one of SADC Institutions under Article 9 (1) of the SADC Treaty.

The transformation of the SADC Parliamentary Forum into a regional parliament was approved by the 41st SADC Summit that met in August 2021 in Lilongwe, Malawi.

Its transformation will ensure broader citizen participation in regional affairs by facilitating more extensive debate on regional issues, and it is expected to accelerate the implementation of SADC protocols that need to be ratified and domesticated into national legislation.

Another important legal instrument that was recommended for adoption by the region is the Draft Memorandum of Agreement for the Establishment of SADC Humanitarian and Emergency Operations Centre (SHOC).

Based in the Nampula province of Mozambique, the SHOC will coordinate regional humanitarian efforts on natural disasters which are increasing and affecting all Member States.

The SADC Committee of Ministers of Justice/Attorneys General also considered and recommended that the Regional Customs Transit Guarantee Regulations made under Annex IV to the Protocol on Trade the Draft Agreement Amending the Protocol on the Development of Tourism in the SADC Region be approved.

The Regional Customs Transit Guarantee Regulations cater for a system that ensures that the guarantee issued in one country should be recognised across the region for purposes of securing the duties when the goods are in transit and thereby regarded as a trade facilitation tool meant to support the implementation of the SADC Free Trade Area (FTA).

The SADC Committee of Ministers of Justice/Attorneys General meeting was preceded by a meeting of Senior Legal Officials on 24 January 2022, and the committee’s main mandate is to provide legal guidance and coordination of legal issues for SADC.

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