South African President Jacob Zuma and Namibian President Hifikepuye Pohamba declined to sign the Protocol on Trade in Services at the close of the SADC summit in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, on Sunday despite regional heads putting pressure on them during deliberations.
Zuma, elected chairperson of the SADC troika on politics, defence and security during the summit, was immediately criticised by SADC chairperson President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
Mugabe said Zuma should cooperate with other countries instead of seeking to turn the region into a market for South Africa’s products.
SADC members signed the protocol in August 2012, but South Africa and Namibia requested more time to consider. The protocol sets out general obligations for all state parties with regard to the treatment of services and service suppliers from other countries. It does not contain liberalisation obligations, but provides for a mandate to progressively negotiate removal of barriers to the free movement of services.
During the closing ceremony, the master of ceremony announced that Namibia and South Africa would sign the protocol but when SADC secretariat aides brought the protocol to Pohamba, he declined to sign after a brief chat with his Trade and Industry minister Carl Schlettwein. Zuma also consulted his International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane before declining to sign.
Mugabe held a press conference after the official closing ceremony where he urged Zuma to cooperate with other SADC countries. He said they had appealed to Zuma to sign the protocol during the summit.
“We also appealed to South Africa which is highly industrialised to lead us in this and work with us, and cooperate with us and not just regard the whole continent as an open market for products from South Africa,” said Mugabe. “We want a reciprocal relationship were we sell to each other and not just receive products from one source.”
Meanwhile, Pohamba and Mozambiquan President Armando Guebuza, whose terms of office are coming to an end this year gave farewell speeches during the closing ceremony.
In a communiqué released after the summit, the heads of states agreed to seek the intervention of the African Union to resolve the political crisis in DRC and support Madagascar in its rebuilding process. “Summit also called upon the United Nations in cooperation with the African Union, to play its role in repatriating FDLR elements that have voluntarily surrendered and disarmed or provide them with temporary resettlement in third countries outside the Great Lakes region,” part of the communiqué reads.
-Mail & Guardian