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‘Noted’ or ‘endorsed’: Sadc summit outcome clear

‘Noted’ or ‘endorsed’: Sadc summit outcome clear

Friday, 17 June 2011 12:03
Alex Magaisa

AN ISSUE currently occupying minds in and around Zimbabwe is the implication 
and effect of the Sadc summit held in Sandton, South Africa, on Sunday. In 
particular, the language of the Sadc communiqué appears to have received 
divergent interpretations regarding the fate of the decisions made by the 
Sadc Troika on March 31 at the summit in Livingstone, Zambia.

On the one hand, the MDCs and civil society organisations argue that the 
summit effectively recognised the decisions of the Livingstone summit 
whereas Zanu PF counter-argues that the summit simply noted but did not 
endorse the decisions. But does it really matter? What really does the Sadc 
communiqué say and what are the implications?

In all this, one must take cognisance of the bigger picture and ultimate 
objective, which is the Sadc-mandated process to resolve the political 
problem in Zimbabwe.

The Sadc communiqué contains various other clauses, including some on the 
matter of sanctions but this article focuses strictly on the fate of the 
Livingstone Troika decisions — as this appears to be the issue that has been 
most contentious.

Clauses 21-31 are the provisions of the Sadc communiqué that are pertinent 
to Zimbabwe. The critical clauses in respect of the Livingstone summit are 
clauses 22, 23 and 24 — although there are other relevant provisions. For 
purposes of this article, the critical provision is clause 22 which states: 
“Summit noted the decisions of the Sadc Troika summit held in Livingstone, 
Zambia in March 2011.”

The question that arises, therefore, is what this clause means, the key word 
here being “noted”. Does it make any difference to the outcome, in effect?

Ordinarily, when something is “noted” it means that there is an acceptance 
that it has value and is worthy of attention. By noting the decisions of the 
Sadc Livingstone Troika summit, the Sadc summit is recognising that they 
have value and are legitimate. It means the summit has given recognition to 
the Troika decisions.

This is important when considered against the background that one party to 
the Global Political Agreement (GPA) — Zanu PF— had taken umbrage against 
the Sadc Livingstone Troika decisions on grounds of procedural irregularity. 
Therefore, for anyone holding the view that the Sadc Livingstone Troika 
decisions were illegitimate and that they should not be upheld, the 
recognition of the decisions by the summit must be a disappointing outcome.

Also important to consider is that the interpretation of that word, “noted”, 
in Article 21 cannot be done in isolation. In interpreting words of any 
document context matters a great deal. The word “noted” is used in various 
provisions of the Sadc communiqué — see Article 9, 12, 21 and 30 for 
example — and in each case the notion communicated by noting is official 
recognition by the summit of whatever was brought before it. It is a 
statement of the summit accepting its value.

In fact, Clause 30 of the Sadc communiqué also states that the summit 
“noted” the recommendations of the sanctions mission mandated by Sadc in 
August 2010. It does not say it “endorsed” the recommendations but that does 
not mean Sadc takes the issue less seriously. No one seems to be downgrading 
the idea of “noting” sanctions recommendations, but instead it is getting 
publicity as Sadc’s recognition of the sanctions problem in Zimbabwe.

In any event, if the Sadc summit had rejected the Sadc Livingstone Troika 
decisions as some would have the world believe, it would have stated as much 
in unequivocal terms. Instead, not only did the Sadc summit recognise those 
decisions, it went further in Clause 24 to “urge the Sadc Troika to appoint 
their representatives as soon as possible to participate in the Joint 
Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic)”.

Jomic is a body mandated to monitor the implementation of the GPA that forms 
the foundation of the present inclusive government. The appointment of a 
team by the Sadc Troika to work with Jomic was one of the key decisions of 
the Sadc Livingstone Troika summit. It was also heavily opposed on grounds 
that it represents interference with Zimbabwe’s sovereignty.

That the Sadc summit has reiterated in its communiqué what the Sadc 
Livingstone Troika resolved in March gives further weight to the view that 
in effect it has recognised and upheld the decisions of the Livingstone 

It must be pointed out, albeit as an aside, that the view propagated in some 
quarters that the team to be appointed by the Sadc Troika represents 
interference in Zimbabwe’s sovereignty is rather disingenuous in light of 
Sadc’s role regarding the GPA. Sadc is a guarantor of the GPA. It has a 
responsibility to ensure the full implementation of the GPA. In fact, one 
could argue that Sadc has generally failed to live up to its obligation to 
fulfil this role given that almost three years since the signing of the GPA 
a number of provisions are yet to be satisfied.

By accepting Sadc’s role in the resolution of the conflict and its place as 
guarantor of the GPA, Zimbabwe’s main political actors (Zanu PF, MDC-T and 
MDC-N) effectively conceded ground which Sadc can and must utilise to 
produce a meaningful result in resolving the problem.

Indeed, one could go so far as saying that making the GPA part of the 
constitutional order and given Sadc’s role as guarantor, the political 
players effectively compromised the country’s sovereignty and diluted their 
own authority. To argue, therefore, that Sadc cannot appoint a team to 
monitor the full implementation of the GPA as interference in the country’s 
sovereignty flies against the foundation of that agreement.

It is the guarantor and as long as its conduct is within reason, it can take 
necessary measures to ensure it performs its role efficiently. No one can 
seriously argue that the full implementation of the GPA is beyond the bounds 
of reason.

In the overall analysis, the net effect of the Sadc communiqué is that the 
Sadc summit gave due recognition to the Sadc Livingstone Troika decisions 
contrary to what may have been argued by those opposed to them. The opposite 
would have been to sideline, ignore or totally reject the Livingstone Troika 
decisions without equivocation. The summit did not do that. In fact, it went 
on to reiterate the need to appoint a team to monitor the full 
implementation of the GPA, a key resolution and outcome of the Livingstone 
Troika summit.

The substance of the outcome is clear for any reasonable mind to see. But 
what we see instead is an exercise in spinning the unspinnable. It is the 
political equivalent of the football manager who, upon his team losing a 
match, tells the media that his team did not lose but rather that it simply 
conceded more goals than it scored. It doesn’t change the outcome. It is 
called a loss in any language.

Alex Magaisa is a senior lecturer at the University of Kent Law School. He 
takes a keen interest on legal and political issues pertaining to Zimbabwe 
and Africa generally. —


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