The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has engaged the South African government to ensure the protection of African citizens domiciled in that country against xenophobic attacks.
After paying a courtesy call on Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday, the newly elected SADC Executive Secretary Mr Elias Magosi said, as the head of the secretariat driving programmes and policies of the 16-member bloc, he intends to ensure there is regional integration.
His call comes amid rising tensions in South Africa where foreigners have once again been under attack from South Africans in an Afrophobic wave that is code-named Operation Dudula. The operation is being spear-headed by a vigilante group whose leader is a 36-year-old pilot Nhlanhla Lux Dlamini.
Last month, a Zimbabwean Elvis Nyathi was brutally murdered by South Africans in Diepsloot in a foreboding repeat of other equally brutal and callous attacks on foreigners.
However, Mr Magosi said such actions are an anathema to the founding values of the regional bloc that was founded in August 1992.
“The idea of the founding fathers of the community was to ensure that we integrate and that we have our citizens moving freely across the region, that means they could find economic activity anywhere in the region.
“Zimbabweans could move into Botswana, and citizens of Botswana could move to Zimbabwe or anywhere in the region without fear that when working they should be looking behind their back feeling that they are insecure, so those aspects that have been in the Republic of South Africa, obviously as the secretariat and Sadc, we will be concerned about.
“We are concerned about it and we are engaged with the leadership of the Republic of South Africa for them to find solutions,” he said.
He said the region also encourages bilateral engagements between member states in the event of xenophobia, which has lately been simmering in South Africa at the instigation of Operation Dudula, which is targeting Africans in what some have described as Afrophobia.
“We encourage governments to engage at the highest level to make sure that citizens in either country are secure and that the security is not compromised. The message that I would send to those practising it, say in South Africa, is that they have citizens elsewhere and would not want their citizens in other parts of the region to be treated like that.
“There are citizens of South Africa who are enjoying peace in the other 15 member states and that is what we would want for citizens of Zimbabwe, if they go to South Africa looking for opportunities, and the South Africans must realise that these citizens that are coming are for the economic development of their country," he said.
The Sadc Executive Secretary said his mandate is to ensure that the aspirations of the regional bloc founding fathers to make sure Southern Africa prospers and is integrated, are fulfilled.
“The region has done very well in terms of tools, processes, and protocols and it is time now to put that to good use, to implement.
“My role as secretary is that I expedite that, if there are protocols to sign we have to expedite the signing of those agreements. I am focusing primarily on policies driving integration,” he said.
Mr Magosi added that the focus is on the signing of protocols in trade and infrastructural development which will ultimately improve the welfare of the citizens of the SADC region.
With one of Sadc member states, Mozambique, under attack from insurgents in its Northern Cabo Delgado region, Mr Magosi said he was determined to also ensure that Southern Africans appreciate the importance of collaboration and intervention when a member state’s sovereignty, peace, and stability is under threat.
“I am also looking at improving the visibility of SADC, not many people know SADC as a community. We are looking at what can we do to improve the visibility of SADC to make sure the citizens of SADC may know the programmes that are being implemented within say the Republic of Zimbabwe.
“Now we are in Mozambique. When the Parliament of Zimbabwe has to provide resources or funds for President Mnangagwa to use in the Republic of Mozambique, they should understand, including those in opposition they should understand, why we should spend those resources in the Republic of Mozambique; we are nipping terrorism in the bud. It’s not only the threat to the Republic of Mozambique but a threat to the entire region, that can grow quickly like a wildfire, so there is a reason why we should intervene,” said Mr Magosi.
Zimbabwe, like many SADC member states, has stood by Mozambique, sending trainers and also helping with food aid.