SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation and the SADC Mutual Defence Pact: briefing


14 November 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


14 November 2003

T Modise (ANC)

Documents handed out:
SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation (OPDSC)
SADC Mutual Defence Pact (MDP)

The Department made a presentation on the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation (OPDSC) and the SADC Mutual Defence Pact (MDP). South Africa is to be the OPDSC's next chairing country and this has several implications for the Department. Members were concerned that one year was too short for the Organ to operate in one country. The need for the MDP is based on the need for collective security capacity and is defined in its Protocol as an instrument for conflict resolution. Members raised concerns about the extent of conflict outside the region and possible violations of human rights in its policy of non-interference.

Mr T Motumi (Deputy Director-General: Chief of Policy and Planning) introduced the delegation. Mr Sivuyile Bam (Director of Research and Analysis) then outlined a brief historical background on SADC, saying that its main objective was to alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life for the people in Southern Africa, and promote economic growth. Prior to the establishment of SADC, the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference (SADCC) aimed to reduce economic dependence on South Africa.

A new structure had been approved by the SADC Heads of State and Government (HoSG) Summit in 2001 called the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation (OPDSC). Its protocol reinforced the SADC Treaty and was a mechanism for times of conflict.

Structure of the OPDSC
The OPDSC followed the troika system of chairing. A Ministerial Committee would be comprised of Ministers of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Public Security and State Security. Its function would be to co-ordinate the work of the Organ. Two sub-committees, the ISDSC (former Frontline States-FLS structure) and the State, Politics and Diplomacy Committee (ISPDC) each meet at Ministerial level. The ISDSC has three sub-committees: the Defence Sub-committee, the Public Security Sub-committee and the State Security Sub-committee. The first two in turn have various working groups. The host country chairs all the committees.

Strategic Indicative Plan of the Organ (SIPO)
This programme has been developed to assist with conflict resolution and to operationalise the objectives of the Protocol. SIPO also provides administrative, secretarial, management and other services to the Organ.

Department participation
South Africa has participated in SADC since 1994. Defence is considered the most prestigious of the Organ's departments. As Chair, South Africa must host and manage all meetings at all levels. Each country must provide a brief on its state of affairs and this responsibility will fall to the Department. The latter must also ensure that the necessary inputs are developed and that objectives are met.

Ms S Motubatse (ANC) asked whether the many Committees could be clustered as a great deal of time would be spent on meetings with little time for implementation.

Mr Motumi answered that each committee met at least once a year. Sub-structures were expected to provide reports to the higher levels.

Mr Bam added that there had been a compromise because some member states had been reluctant to do away with particular committees. The ISDSC had existed before SADC came into being. These were however not necessary as they provided an extra bureaucratic level.

Mr D Dlali (ANC) asked how often the working groups met. Countries might not reveal all in their country briefing reports and he asked what action would be taken in this case.

Brigadier-General D de Lange (Department) answered that low level committees dealt with very technical issues. They met regularly and their work dealt mainly with personnel and training issues. It was felt that the working groups duplicated the work of the Sub-committees. Chairpersons of workgroups tended to be scattered throughout the SADC.

Mr Motumi reiterated that a single chairing country was a better arrangement because responsibility was centred and streamlined. The problem with chairpersons from different countries was that no meetings took place until deadlines drew close.

Mr Bam explained that the SADC operated on consensus between countries. Members had to be convinced to agree. There was no point in having a confrontational regulatory body. The country brief outlined the member country's view on issues.

Mt Motumi added that this brief also covered the domestic political situation and how international developments impacted on that country. For sensitive issues, officials were excused from the meeting and only Ministers participated in such discussions.

Mr R Jankielsohn (DA) stated that South Africa was the hegemon in SADC. If South Africa disagreed with something, other countries would be inclined to follow without much persuasion. There was a risk that the entire process could collapse.

Mr Bam said that politicians had to make decisions as there was give-and-take at Ministerial level. Lower levels receive their instructions and then delegated to the administrative and technical level.

The Chairperson said that the ISDSC should be disbanded and the Organ should be at the forefront in terms of policy co-ordination and related issues. There should be some drastic changes at a political level. A weakness was that a country only managed the Organ for one year, which was disruptive. She also asked whether South Africa had the necessary resources to host the Organ's meetings. Otherwise, the Organ will be a useful body.

Mr S Middleton (IFP) asked whether other SADC countries still wanted to reduce their dependence on South Africa.

Mr Motumi replied that all structures had to be revisited, including different ways to strengthen structures and evaluate members' stakes in the Secretariat. He agreed that one year was too short a time. The concept of the troika was to ensure institutional memory. SADC's main focus was the economic development of the whole region.

SADC Mutual Defence Pact (MDP)
Mr Bam explained that the basis for the Mutual Defence Pact (MDP) was the need for collective security capacity. Obstructing factors included differing views on the setting up and operation of the security arm and the outbreak of the war on the DRC. The MDP was signed by 12 out of 14 member states this year. Mr Bam then proceeded to discuss MDP provisions.

Article 2
The MDP is defined as an instrument of conflict resolution.

Article 3
The MDP reinforces the UN Charter in respect of peaceful resolution of international disputes.

Article 4
Member states must prepare for their common defence.

Article 6
Member states can decide how to respond in the event of an attack on another member state. This projects a unified SADC security front.

Article 7
This clause reaffirms the principle of non-interference in the affairs of another country. The challenge is to balance non-interference and interference to pursue democratic values.

Article 8
States must make provision to protect themselves from external aggression and not be concerned with the affairs of another state.

Article 9
This article reinforces the provisions of Article 4 in that member states are encouraged to prepare for their own defence.

The above provisions imply unconditional commitment from members, burden sharing, defence against State and non-State actors, and engagement for defence-related industry contribution.

Relations with Continental Mechanisms

Mr Bam said the African Union encouraged regional solutions to problems facing member states. The still-developing Common African Defence and Security Policy reinforced this approach.

Mr Jankielsohn referred to Article 4 and asked whether it related to only military matters. He referred to Article 7 and asked whether the government or the people of a member state would enjoy support, especially when the government oppressed its people. Referring to Article 8, he said that different countries had different definitions of "terrorist organisation". He asked how implementation would be impacted with different definitions in different states.

Regarding Article 4, Mr Motumi said that each country should ensure that armed forces were trained to the required level in co-operation with other members. Bilateral security co-operation and defence agreements had been concluded. On non-interference, there would be no support for governments effecting unconstitutional changes. It was for SADC to decide when the provisions of the Protocol kicked in.

The Chairperson said that it would be difficult to determine whether human rights were being violated in a country if it was prohibited to look at another country's internal affairs. She asked how this would encourage the building of democratic institutions.

Mr Motumi said that the main thrust of the MDP was to protect against attack on member states within the region.

Mr Jankielsihn pointed out that threats to the region emanated from within the region itself. More energy should be channelled into looking into this area.

Mr Motumi said that there was no collective Military Command because this would have major implications for both the region and the continent.

Mr Bam said that member states had felt it impractical to create an African Army because each member state has a different approach. A stand-by force was a better option where all member states contributed and provided the necessary assistance. Regarding terrorism, the MDP did not define the concept but provided measures to deal with it nevertheless.

Vice Admiral Trainor (Department) explained that the Organ Protocol provided clear processes on inter-and-intrastate conflict. Article 11 dealt with conflict resolution and situations which could arise as a result. The proposed peace resolution process could possibly end in enforcement action. Although this action was not specified, it indicated possible military intervention. In practice, the Organ had to take the lead and the MDP should in no way obstruct the process.

Mr Motumi added that the MDP was one level down from the Organ Protocol. A summit of the Heads of State should decide on military intervention.

Mr G Oosthuizen (ANC) asked how it would be ensured that the necessary steps were taken if there were no permanent Secretariat with resources to oversee proceedings.

Mr Motumi informed the Member that there was a permanent Secretariat in place. Weaknesses had been identified but early warning mechanisms were in place so that action is taken as may be necessary.

Mr Bam said that member states had been called on to work on secondment as personnel in the Organ's Secretariat.

Vice Admiral Trainor said that Organ Protocol was clear and comprehensive with less interfering mechanisms.

The Chairperson commended the Department on the good Protocol. The Organ would be expected to execute sanctions and would be monitored in terms of good governance, human rights culture and related issues. The Organ was, at this time, the point of reference. The Committee expected better co-ordination of policies at inter-Ministerial level. The Organ should not become a body that did not reflect the will of the people in different member countries.

The Chairperson thanked the officials from the Department and adjourned the meeting.


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