Botswana president Seretse Khama Ian Khama took over the rotating chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) from President Robert Mugabe at the on-going annual heads of state summit in Gaborone on Monday.
The summit is being held under the theme “Accelerating industrialisation of SADC economies through transformation of natural endowment and improved human capital”.
Khama already has a long list of political problems and rising tensions in Madagascar, Lesotho, Swaziland and potentially Zimbabwe to deal with as SADC chair.
The opposition MDC-T has dispatched a representative to lobby Mr. Khama to put Harare on the SADC agenda, arguing that the political situation in the country is fast deteriorating.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Khama called for “collective efforts in ensuring that we are successful in our endeavors to transform the SADC region into a better place, envied throughout the world as beacon for political stability and economic prosperity.”
Mr. Mugabe also addressed the same summit.
Meanwhile, rights groups are calling on leaders of the 15-nation SADC to take steps to improve the rule of law and human rights as they meet in Botswana.
Human rights watch and a coalition of African groups issued statements ahead of the summit with a particular focus on the SADC's now-suspended tribunal.
Senior researcher Dewa Mavhinga with Human Rights Watch told VOA Studio 7 that SADC must take concrete steps to improve rights issues in the region.
The president of the Association of the SADC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Oswell Binha, said business leaders in the region feel left out by SADC leaders.