Ministers endorse mechanism to honour SADC Founders

SANF 20 no 18 
The founders of the Southern African Development Community including Julius Nyerere, Seretse Khama and Kenneth Kaunda could soon be honoured through an official process.

A mechanism for this purpose was endorsed by Ministers responsible for peace and security at a meeting of the SADC Ministerial Committee of the Organ (MCO) on Politics Defence and Security Cooperation on 26 June.

According to SADC procedure, the proposal is presented to various regional structures for consideration before recommendation for approval by the 40th SADC Summit scheduled for August in Mozambique.

The establishment of a mechanism to honour the legacy of SADC Founders is expected to appreciate and acknowledge the vision and actions of the leaders who initiated the journey towards regional integration in southern Africa more than 40 years ago.

This generation of visionary leaders included the founding presidents of Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, respectively Dr Agostinho Neto, Sir Seretse Khama, Samora Machel, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda and Robert Mugabe.

These were the leaders of the Frontline States which in 1980 established the Southern African Development Coordinating Conference (SADCC). After supporting the independence of Namibia in 1990 and the negotiations to end apartheid, the SADCC was transformed into SADC in 1992.

Now at 40 years since its original declaration “Southern Africa: Toward Economic Liberation”, SADC has achieved a number of milestones aimed at advancing political and economic freedom.

However, little has been done to pay tribute to those leaders who sacrificed and dedicated their lives to the ideals of attaining political freedom and deepening regional integration.

The approval of a mechanism to honour their work will encourage the region to uphold the ideals of these leaders for the benefit of future generations.

In an outcome statement released after the virtual meeting chaired by Zimbabwe, the MCO said the mechanism to honour the Founders will include renaming some buildings as well as the production of publications.

“The MCO endorsed the Mechanism in Honour of the Founders of SADC, which will include naming of rooms at the SADC Secretariat, its Satellite Offices, and other strategic places such as Government buildings and Parliament offices in different countries; SADC Essay Competition and Curriculum reforms to include the legacy of SADC Founders; Commissioning research leading to publications focusing on all the founders (individually and collectively); and Awarding Medals,” reads part of the statement.

To date, some efforts have been made both at national and regional levels to honour the Founding Fathers of the regional community.

One of these was the introduction of the Seretse Khama SADCC Medal during the 1985 SADCC Summit in Arusha, Tanzania.

The medal is conferred to those considered to have made outstanding contributions towards the formation and development of SADCC/SADC as well as in the struggle for economic liberation of the region.

Tanzania’s founding President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere became the first recipient of the medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the region.

Other recipients of the medal are President Samora Machel of Mozambique (posthumously in 1987); President Dr. Agostinho Neto of Angola (posthumously in 1995); Sir Ketumile Masire of Botswana (1998); President Nelson Mandela of South Africa (2000); President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, President Sam Nujoma of Namibia, and Brigadier-General Hashim Mbita of Tanzania, all in 2010.

A picture book was launched in 2015 on the life of Nyerere that includes a range of his speeches and statements.  The book, titled Asante Sana, Thank You Mwalimu, was co-published by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), the African Publishing Group and the House of Books in Zimbabwe as well as Mkuki na Nyota of Tanzania.

Another important initiative is the convening of the annual SADC Public Lecture, where former SADC Heads of State and Government usually deliver lectures offering some important institutional history to present and future generations.

The idea to define a mechanism to honour the SADC Founders was agreed at the 35th SADC Summit of Heads of States and Government held in Gaborone, Botswana in August 2015.

The MCO also discussed the general peace and security situation in the region, and pledged to remain “seized with the political and security developments” in southern Africa.

The MCO is a structure of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation and is charged with the responsibility to coordinate the work of the Organ and its structures in promoting peace and security in the region.

It comprises of ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Public Security and State Security from all 16 SADC Member States.

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