Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders are expected to start arriving Saturday for the 34th SADC Ordinary Summit for heads of state and government which begins in the resort town of Victoria Falls Sunday, officials say.
President Robert Mugabe is assuming the chairmanship of the 15-member regional bloc, taking over from Malawi’s Peter Mutharika.
The summit will run under theme; “Leveraging the Region`s Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development Through Beneficiation and Value Addition”.
SADC director of infrastructure and services, Remmy Makumbe, says heads of state will, among other issues, sign a declaration committing themselves to mobilizing $500 billion needed for infrastructure development under the region’s ambitious SADC’s Infrastructure Development Master Plan.
Raising money or the $64 billion needed for the first phase has been a problem for member states as most of them are struggling economically.
Permanent secretary in the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Joey Bimha, told Studio 7 that foreign ministers, who help shape the agenda of the meeting, have been locked in meetings since Thursday to fine tune preparations.
But on Friday non-governmental organizations were meeting in Bulawayo on the sidelines of the summit in an attempt to push regional leaders to address some of their concerns, especially on governance.
Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Chris Mutsvangwa, who addressed the people’s summit, said he supports the issues being raised by local people.
Blessing also spoke with one of the organizers of the people’s conference and head of the organization, Women and Land Zimbabwe, Thandiwe Chidavaenzi, who says she wants regional leaders to make concrete commitments in assisting women farmers.
Independent political analyst and former student leader, Blessing Vava, said the major highlight of the summit is Mr. Mugabe assuming the chairmanship of the regional body. But Vava doubts at 90 he will have a significant impact.
As the SADC People's Summit started in Bulawayo on Friday, critics said it is unlikely that the forthcoming heads of state and government meeting will have an immediate impact on development and food security in Zimbabwe.
Delegates told Studio 7 that for SADC to be relevant, it needs to be responsive to the needs of the people and not regional leaders’ interest.
Dalitso Kubalasa, head of secretariat for the mini-summit, said the people's message is that mineral resources should be harnessed to benefit citizens of various nations.
Political analyst Nkululeko Sibanda of Huddersfield University told VOA's Gibbs Dube the summit is unlikely to address issues that will have an immediate impact on local people.