SADC leaders prepare for summit on Zimbabwe and Madagascar

Johannesburg – Political unrest in Madagascar will take centre stage at a special regional summit on Monday in Swaziland where leaders are also set to finalise an economic recovery package for Zimbabwe

The 15-nation Southern African Development Community is expected to condemn the ouster of Madagascan President Marc Ravalomanana earlier this month which saw the country’s membership of the African Union suspended.

Analysts say however the regional body, traditionally loath to take serious action against members who step out of line, would likely issue a statement urging the return of power to the legitimately elected president.

"Apart from that, they do not have much they can do to enforce their objection to the coup," said Siphamandla Zondi, an analyst at the Institute for Global Dialogue.

Limited power

SADC Secretary General Tomaz Salomao will lead deliberation on proposals developed to assist Madagascar to return to democracy, the rule of law and constitutionality.

Ravalomanana was forced out of office when the army turned against him after a bitter three-month struggle, and his supporters have taken to the streets in protest.

Zimbabwe’s hopes will be pinned on a package worth two billion dollars which it requested to help aid its reconstruction after a year of political and economic crisis.

The embattled country was struck a blow this week when the International Monetary Fund said it would only provide aid to Zimbabwe once the unity government meets key conditions.

Independent political analyst Laurence Caromba said SADC countries will "certainly" not insist on western-style preconditions before giving money to Zimbabwe.

However he questioned where countries would get the money from as their own economies struggle under the effects of a global economic crisis.

"Even if regional countries are willing to fund Zimbabwe, it’s not entirely clear where they will get the money," said Caromba.

"The wealthier countries such as South Africa are currently running budget deficits as a result of the international financial crisis."

SADC ministers of finance and foreign affairs started arriving Saturday in the Swazi administrative capital Mbabane.

The foreign ministry said in a statement: "All member states except for Madagascar have confirmed participation in this all important meeting. Ministers would hold a meeting on Sunday morning at the Royal Villas just a day before the heads of state summit on Monday."

– AFP