By Bill Saidi
MOST regional organisations are formed to co-ordinate action which strengthens their unity and development.
There is always an element of fire-fighting in their constitutions.
This is almost similar to the provisions in the United Nations Charter which set up the Security Council as an organ capable of ordering action against a member-nation.
Under its provisions, the UN intervened militarily in Libya.
That action was backed by a majority of the Arab League members of the UN.
In Africa, the West African organisation known as Ecowas has displayed a distinctly more muscular role in the region than Sadc has done in Southern Africa.
Ecowas reacted decisively to recent military coups in two member-states.
There was no shilly-shallying — stop this rubbish or you will be punished heavily.
In Southern Africa, there has been a somewhat feeble response to two regional crises — in Zimbabwe and in Swaziland.
In Zimbabwe, there is still a stalemate on the way forward after the formation of the unity government.
President Robert Mugabe has been obdurate in agreeing to a timetable for presidential and parliamentary elections.
He has gone to the extent of declaring that his party would go ahead with elections, even if all the provisions for such an event have not been agreed with the MDC formations.
In Swaziland, King Mswati III refuses to even consider a democratic dispensation for the tiny kingdom.
The demands for democracy have not been robustly backed by Sadc in any way.
It would seem that the provision of non-interference in the internal affairs of member-states has been taken to the extreme.
The likelihood is that the demands for democracy may turn ugly, as the king’s enemies decide that perhaps it is time for a “people’s movement” to take charge of the campaign.
There could be violence, inevitably.
Sadc would shoulder most of the blame — as it would, if the stalemate in Zimbabwe was allowed to fester into something really ugly.
Countries which come together to safeguard and promote their interests have a major responsibility to respect the wishes of the other member-states.
The leading role has to be taken by the most influential nations of the grouping — Germany, for instance, wields the most influence in the European Union. Likewise, Nigeria is in a similar position in West Africa, as South Africa is in Sadc.
On both Zimbabwe and Swaziland, there has been procrastination.
President Jacob Zuma probably has his local plate overflowing with prickly problems — one of them named Julius Malema — and may thus be pressed for time to deal with Zimbabwe and Swaziland.
But there are officials in the organisation whose task is to perform most of the legwork required to activate matters.
In the United Nations, the Secretary-General has always been the key figure.
Always, there has been very strict care in his choice, although on one or two occasions, there have been blunders.
Kurt Waldheim was a distinctly unfortunate choice.
He is the only UN chief I ever met face-to-face.
He was on his way from what was then South-West Africa, now Namibia, when he stopped over in Zambia.
He was our guest at the Press Club where he made a speech outlining his problems in convincing the hard-line Afrikaners to give up power.
Before his speech, he had confided in me his terror on listening to what the Afrikaners were expecting to happen in that territory.
He said they had threatened violence against the Africans, if they persisted with their campaign for independence from Pretoria.
Waldheim struck me as an honest, determined international civil servant, anxious to achieve the declared goal of the UN in Namibia.
But later, it turned out that he had concealed his dark past as a member of the Nazi movement in his native Austria.
I was shaken: how the hell had they decided he was the most suitable candidate for such a job?
He was utterly disgraced.
I felt very sorry for us, as Africans.
We had let the UN place faith in a believer of the so-called Super Race.
People in whom so much trust is reposed should be selected with the utmost care. This could be Sadc’s problem.
Bill Saidi is a veteran writer based in Harare