The Sunday Mail
Former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa was a champion of regional integration whose contribution to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will remain immeasurable, President Mnangagwa has said.
President Mkapa died on Thursday in a hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, after a short illness.
In a statement issued in his capacity as Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, President Mnangagwa highlighted the former President’s numerous achievements that positively contributed to the regional bloc.
“The people and governments of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) received with sorrow and heartfelt grief, the sad news of the passing on of one of the region’s great leaders of Africa’s transformation and a champion for the integration of SADC,” he said.
“Throughout his life, former President Benjamin William Mkapa, third President of the United Republic of Tanzania and Chairperson of SADC from 2003 to 2004, provided hope and instilled a sense of selfless sacrifice to the people of Tanzania, SADC and Africa, and the legacy he leaves behind shall continue to inspire generations.”
President Mnangagwa said during his tenure as SADC chairperson, President Mkapa superintended over the region’s key blueprints such as the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP).
“The RISDP mapped the regional vision, and signalled an important step that provided a clear strategic direction with respect to SADC development and integration, in line with the SADC common agenda, as enshrined in the SADC Treaty of 1992.
“In the same year, 2003, the Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Corporation (SIPO) was approved, and
the SADC Mutual Defence Plan was adopted,” he said.
Another of President Mkapa’s stellar contributions was the implementation of strategies to combat HIV and AIDS at a time the pandemic wreaked havoc in the region, said President Mnangagwa.
“His Excellency Mkapa assumed the leadership of SADC at a time when the region was grappling with increased cases of HIV and AIDS.
“Under his stewardship, SADC approved the establishment of a regional fund for the implementation of the SADC HIV and AIDS in the SADC region. Other instruments that were signed during HE Mkapa’s tenure as SADC Chairperson included the SADC Charter and Fundamental Social Rights, which among other things, calls for creation of a conducive environment to facilitate closer and active consultations among partners, and in a spirit conducive to harmonious labour relations.”
The former President also championed construction of the SADC headquarters in Gaborone, Botswana.
“He initiated the process by calling upon SADC Member States to contribute towards the construction of the headquarters. When he toured the SADC Secretariat in June 2004, His Excellency President Mkapa said he was going to push hard for the construction of the new SADC headquarters, and he made financial contributions on behalf of the United Republic of Tanzania, a gesture that motivated all Member States to contribute instantly, and hence the SADC headquarters came to reality,” President Mnangagwa said.
He recalled a keynote address made by President Mkapa in August 2019 at the SADC Public Lecture on “Deepening Integration in SADC Achievements, Challenges and Opportunities”.
“The lecture that was attended by a number of stakeholders across a broad spectrum stimulated discussion on regional integration ahead of the 39th SADC summit hosted in Dar es Salaam by highlighting SADC’s key achievements, challenges hindering the deepening of integration and ways to overcome the challenges.”
President Mnangagwa said SADC will forever cherish President Mkapa’s role in championing SADC integration and vividly remembers his firm belief in sustainable development, and immense contribution to socio-economic development, peace and security.
President Mkapa served as Tanzania’s third leader from 1995 to 2005 and is set to be laid to rest on Wednesday.