The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) must learn from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) when it comes to disciplining its errant members that do not follow the rules.
Recently, ECOWAS imposed sanctions on Mali for refusing to set a clear timetable for returning to civilian rule.
ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) imposed a raft of economic and diplomatic sanctions in response to Malian military leaders’ desire to push back elections until 2025.
In August 2020, army officers led by Colonel Assimi Goita, toppled the elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita amid street protests against his unpopular rule.
Under threat of sanctions, Goita subsequently promised to restore civilian rule in February 2022 after holding presidential and legislative elections.
But he staged a de facto second coup last May, forcing out an interim civilian government.
The move disrupted the reform timetable and was met with widespread diplomatic condemnation.
ECOWAS insisted that Mali hold elections in February.
But the military regime said it would only set an election date after holding a nationwide conference – arguing a peaceful vote was more important than speed.
The military rulers suggested that a transition could take anywhere between six months to five years.
This timetable “simply means that an illegitimate military transition government will take the Malian people hostage”, it said.
The 15-member bloc said it had agreed to impose additional sanctions with immediate effect, including the closure of members’ land and air borders with Mali, suspension of non-essential financial transactions, and the freezing of Malian state assets in ECOWAS central and commercial banks.
Regional monetary union UEMOA instructed all financial institutions under its umbrella to suspend Mali with immediate effect, severing the country’s access to regional financial markets.
We have seen action by ECOWAS in similar circumstances before against other members.
This is a clear example of what a regional body should react to any of its members who dare break the laws in whose crafting they were participants.
Similar action is not visible in SADC.
The modus operandi in SADC has always been that of leaders protecting and covering for one another.
The best example of this in the SADC region is what is currently happening in eSwatini.
King Mswati has continued to violate the democratic rights of his people with impunity and nothing stern has been done.
SADC continues to treat him with kid gloves and always sides with him rather than the people of eSwatini.
This calls for radical changes in the way SADC is run.
It is imperative the regional body moves to prevent the total disregard of its own rules.
Furthermore, SADC is allowing itself to be used as hired mercenaries in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique.
They are fighting the so-called war on terror on behalf of Imperial France protecting its energy interests in that part of the world.
This is demeaning to regional and African institutions.
There should be respect for the institutions and rules made by the people of SADC if the region is to become a better place for investors and tourists.
This will also ensure peace in the region, because quite often, it is non-adherence to rules that results in indiscipline among the people.
In other words, there should be no untouchables, everyone should be treated equally before the law regardless of his position or station in society.
Rule of law should be the clarion call.
At the moment, this is lacking in SADC.
Instead, we have seen the opposite.
The leadership of SADC has on many occasions ganged up with their own in the leadership at the expense of the general population who makes them what they are.
These are the same people who vote for them and yet they are treated like outcasts when it comes to matters that concern them.
We call upon SADC to imitate and follow EOWAS lead in this regard and reprimand any of its members that dare trample on people’s rights.
Dr. Mustafa Mheta is Senior researcher/Head of Africa Desk at Media Review Network, Johannesburg, South Africa