The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers meeting opened in Lilongwe with a minute of silence in remembrance of late revered statesman and global icon Nelson Mandela.
Mandela died at his Johannesburg home in South Africa in December 2013 aged 95.
The two-day meeting is expected to look at the operations of SADC, its budget for 2014/2015 and the implementation of Council decisions among other issues.
Zambia is being represented at the meeting by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wilbur Simuusa.
Malawi’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Ephraim Chiume welcomed Madagascar to the SADC family after its re-admission to the regional bloc and the African Union (AU) following its successful holding of elections last year and the subsequent restoration of constitutional normalcy.
This is contained in a press statement released to ZANIS in Lusaka by Issued by First Secretary Press at the Zambian Embassy Chansa Kabwela.
Mr. Chiume pledged SADC’s firm commitment to support and cooperate with the people and the government of the Republic of Madagascar in their bold steps towards national reconciliation, social and economic recovery which would ultimately lead to the sustainable development and inclusive growth.
“The election of the new President and the restoration of the constitutional order is a great achievement not only for the Malagasy people but also for SADC and the African Union,” Mr. Chiume said.
Madagascar was suspended from SADC and the AU five years ago in 2009 after opposition leader Andry Rajoelina with support from the military ousted democratically elected president Marc Ravalomanana.
Following SADC’s successful mediation of the crisis with former Mozambican leader Joacquim Chissano as lead negotiator, Madagascar held elections in 2013 which saw former finance minister Henry Rajaonarimampianina elected as President.
SADC lifted the suspension of the Indian Ocean Island in January 2014.
Mr. Chiume hailed the SADC member states for their commitment to the goals and objectives of the organization which are crucial to promoting greater cooperation and integration.
He said the SADC Council of Ministers Meeting is being held at a time when the global economy was slowing down in growth coupled with major political developments in Europe which could further affect it, with the domino effect extending to the SADC region and Africa as a whole.
“The cloud of the global economy calls upon all of us to find innovative ways of subduing the adverse effects on our economies. The 2014/2015 SADC budget which we will consider and adopt in due course should take into account these events,” Mr. Chiume said.
He informed the delegates that Malawi is scheduled to hold its tripartite elections on 20th May, 2014 and would endeavour to ensure that the exercise is free and fair.
And SADC Executive Secretary Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax pledged to contribute positively to the growth of SADC as the new head of the regional bloc secretariat.