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Lusaka, Zambia – Zambia will hand over the Southern African Development Community (SADC) chairmanship to South Africa this week at the ordinary SADC heads of state and government summit in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The regional summit, scheduled to take place 16-17 August, will be held with a view to strengthening and consolidating sustainable regional political and economic integration and development.

The summit will be preceded by a SADC Council of Ministers meeting scheduled for Thursday/Friday, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pretoria disclosed.

Among others, the summit will focus on political developments within the region, regional economic integration, challenges around food security, and the financing and construction of the new SADC headquarters.

As part of SADC’s efforts to deepen long-term regional economic integration, the SADC heads of state and government summit will on 17 August launch the Free Trade Area (FTA) of the Community.

The SADC FTA will be launched under the theme “SADC Free Trade Area for Growth, Development and Wealth Creation”.

The launch of a Free Trade Area will formalise the elimination of trade tariffs among SADC member states, enhance regional economic integration and the creation of bigger regional markets.

Zambian ailing President Levy Mwanawasa, who is the current SADC chairperson, is currently hospitalised in Paris, France, after he suffered a stroke on 29 June.

During his tenure as SADC chairperson, Mwanawasa took a strong position on neigh bouring Zimbabwe, condemning the political violence in that country.

Mwanawasa had called on President Robert Mugabe to postpone the presidential run-off in June, noting that the environment in Zimbabwe was not conducive to conduct free and fair elections in that country.

He also urged SADC member states not to allow the ship from China, which carried arms for Zimbabwe after the first disputed presidential and parliamentary elections, to dock in those countries.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, who will take over the SADC chairmanship, is currently the mediator in the Zimbabwean talks involving key political party leaders in Zimbabwe.

Mbeki met with the political leaders in Zimbabwe till the early hours of Monday (11Aug) on the details of power-sharing talks, which is said to have produced a deal.

Analysts said Mbeki is keen to strike a deal ahead of the SADC summit.
Lusaka – 11/08/2008