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Pursuing a functional security community in Southern Africa: is it possible after all?


The objectives of the Southern African Development Community are, amongst others, aimed at building a security community in Southern Africa. Specifically, the establishment of the SADC Organ for Politics, Defence and Security in 1996 indicated some commitment to the stability and security of the region. Against this background, this article analyses security communities in a theoretical context and focuses on the prospects of the Southern African security structure becoming an effective security community. More specifically, the functioning of the SADC Organ for Politics, Defence and Security is assessed. It is argued that there remain a number of difficulties that prevent the Southern African security apparatus from evolving into a functional security community. In this regard, the political will to capitalise on recent developments, to break with the stagnation of the past years, and to overcome obstacles in the realm of subregional governance, is crucial to pursuing the ideal of an effective security community in Southern Africa.


On 28 June 1996, four years after the South African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) had been transformed into the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the summit of Southern African Heads of State or Government established a security organ, formally named the Organ for Politics, Defence and Security (OPDS). This subregional Organ--modeled on the Organisation of African Unity's Central Organ of the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution--alludes to the structure of SADC's security arrangements and was intended to deal with the prevention of conflicts through preventive diplomacy, mediation and peacekeeping. It was also supposed to institutionalise "new security thinking" in its organisational structures and activities. With this initiative--commendable in bringing the security and development dimensions closer to realisation (1)--Southern Africa (seemingly) reached the threshold of a security community. (2) In fact, it has been asserted that "Southern Africa has been transformed from an explosive security complex towards a security community with cooperative relations, that is the level of regionness has increased". (3)

Yet, at the end of the 1990s, it was clear that numerous problems have plagued the functioning of the OPDS since its inception in 1996. In addition, observers were also no longer contending that this institution had brought the Southern African community closer to the ideal of a functional security community. Mainly as a result of institutional and political problems, the OPDS had been paralysed. That is until the Southern African leaders eventually managed (at least in a technical sense) to address the problems and challenges relating to the functioning of the OPDS in 2001. Against this background, the question is: To what extent can recent developments concerning the functioning of the OPDS bring Southern Africa closer to the ideal of a functional security community, and can this ideal be actively pursued in the subregional context? This article provides some perspectives on and clarity in this regard. This is done by reflecting on security communities in a theoretical context; then focusing on the OPDS and its current status; and finally, by assessing the prospects of the Southern African security structure becoming an effective security community.


Theoretically speaking, two ideal types of security frameworks could possibly manifest in the Southern African context, namely a security regime or security community. Since security regimes and security communities are ideal types, an absolute distinction between them is not possible. Therefore, the main purpose of this distinction is to position them as extreme poles on a continuum. In practice, there may be similarities and even overlap between them. However, in essence these two ideal types exhibit different approaches and attitudes to security co-operation. (4)

To explain this, classical security complex theory is used as a point of departure. (5) A security complex is defined as a set of states whose major security perceptions and concerns are so interlinked that their national security problems cannot reasonably be analysed or resolved separately from one another. This implies that the internal dynamics of a security complex can be located along a spectrum, depending on whether the defining security interdependence is driven by amity or enmity. Conflict formation, in which interdependence is the result of fear, rivalry and mutual perceptions of threat, lies at the negative end of the spectrum. Security regimes, in which states still treat each other as potential threats but have made reassurance arrangements to reduce the security challenges among them, are positioned in the centre. Security communities, in which states no longer expect or prepare to use force in their relations with each other, lie at the positive end of the spectrum. In fact, regional integration is expected to eliminate a security complex with which it is coextensive, by transforming it from an anarchic subsystem of states into a single, larger actor within the international system.


To gain an understanding of security communities, it is first necessary to clarify and assess the concept of security regimes. In the case of security regimes, the main aim of regional security co-operation is to build the capacity of the state to provide and maintain security for its citizens. But this also means that internal security and regional cooperation to promote it, are then primarily aimed at enhancing national security. (6) Since regimes and regime theory are largely associated with neo-realism and a state-centric approach, Dittgen and Peters argue that this type of "alliance" represents a rather thin form of co-operation. (7) The states involved inherently mistrust each other and they will not establish institutions which will permanently bind them together. They will strive for a margin of independence even from their closest allies. The level of co-operation in such an alliance, therefore, will remain intergovernmental and the functional scope will strictly be limited to the military realm.

Security regimes furthermore display a specific pattern of partnership. Accordingly, states will not become members of an "alliance" if the alliance partners are not of immediate relevance to the underlying goal, namely achieving security through the accumulation of power resources. This coincides with the realist tradition which regards community formation at the level of international politics impossible or unlikely, and which links external security to states striving for power. (8) Hence regimes and regime theory is based on and associated with the realist tradition.

In a very useful framework of analysis, Van Aardt outlines the following characteristics of security regimes: (9)

--Security co-operation is considered to be concerned with an "individual" problem that can be solved in its own terms. In other words, problems can be "isolated" or "contained".

--Security co-operation is a reactive rather than a pro-active process. It results from the need to co-operate in order to defend national interests.

--Common norms develop and rules are formulated as the need arises and patterns of behaviour are established over time.

--Participants make a formal expression of expectations, principles, norms and outcomes and negotiate new rules, practices and structures as and when the need arises.

--The attitudinal base of this approach reflects a concern by member states to promote their national security through regional security co-operation, but the mutual understanding is that it can never lead to the creation of a "larger state".

--The nature of co-operation pursued is functional for the continued interests of the individual actors who form part of the security regime.

--There is no specific provision for collective defence. This implies that a member not threatened by an external aggressor might jeopardise its own security should it become involved in the defence of a neighbouring partner in the regional security regime.

In contrast to the above, the concept of security communities, is associated with a more liberal way of conceptualising security.


Dittgen and Peters suggest that security communities are associated with the liberal school of thought. (10) Accordingly, it is believed that anarchy need not result in unfettered self-help behaviour and that there is always the possibility that norms and rules will be established which could guide the interaction of states and of members of different societies in the international or transnational realm. As far is security is concerned, it hinges on the existence of effective norms and rules of peaceful conflict resolution. Therefore, the ideal way to achieve security in the international system is community building or integration. This implies the establishment of shared values and norms pertaining to the peaceful resolution of conflicts. In fact, since common norms established in a community cover several issue areas, this will increase interdependence in the community, thereby further reducing incentives to use force and thus enhancing security among the members. Accordingly, Van Aardt attributes the following characteristics to security communities: (11)

--The members of a security community remain separate entities and their co-operation takes national security into consideration. Nevertheless, the overriding concern is the belief that the security of the region is indivisible and of primary concern.

--It is based on a belief that the identification of common interests, the building of common identities and the spreading of moral obligations should underpin long-term security.

--Security co-operation is a pro-active rather than a reactive process, which relies heavily on early warning measures. In addition, the idea of community implies a vision or strategic goal of what is to be achieved. The structures and resources needed to build a community, as well as the necessary steps and phases, are identified and dealt with systematically.

--Collective security is not so much aimed at protecting "against" each other, as at protecting each other in the face of what, in contemporary security terms often constitutes "threats without enemies". Mutual defence, on the other hand, signifies military assistance against extra-regional aggression and threats. However, military assistance should also be understood in terms of peacekeeping measures and to deal with the spillover effects of conflicts such as refugees.

--Its attitudinal base reflects a concern by member states that the security of the region as a whole is of paramount importance. To this end, a sense of common regional identity prevails. Also, a security community indicates involvement based on mutuality--a sense of belonging together as a group of individual entities.

In essence, a security community is one where progress occurs within a climate of peace and stability and within a framework where the individual member states remain separate entities, but co-operate on the basis of "sameness". However, it entails more than mere "sameness". At most this denotes regionalism. The political will to implement the steps necessary for the realisation of an effective security community is what is crucial for the functioning of such a community. (12)

The question is: To what extent can SADC be considered a security community and does it, as a subregional organisation, display some of the characteristics of a functional security community? In other words, is there a sense of mutuality and sharing within SADC, both in terms of ideas and in practice, that denotes a different approach to security co-operation from the way in which security regimes operate?


SADC was established in August 1992 with the view to: (13)

--achieve development and economic growth, alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the peoples of Southern Africa and support the socially disadvantaged through regional disintegration;

--evolve common political values, systems and institutions;

--promote and defend peace and security;

--promote self-sustaining development on the basis of collective self-reliance, and the interdependence of member states;

--achieve complementarity between national and regional strategies and programmes;

--promote and maximise productive employment and utilisation of resources in the region;

--achieve sustainable utilisation of natural resources and effective protection of the environment;

--strengthen and consolidate the longstanding historical, social and cultural affinities and links among the peoples of the region.

The focus of SADC is mainly on economic development. Therefore, on 18 January 1996 at a meeting in Gaborone of the SADC Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security, it was recommended to the SADC Summit of Heads of State or Government (hereafter Summit) to establish an Organ for Politics, Defence and Security. It was stated that such an institution would allow for more flexibility and for a timely response, at the highest level, to sensitive and potentially explosive situations. It was also stated that the modalities of how the proposed SADC Organ should be structured and operationalised needed to be determined by the SADC Summit. (14) Consequently, the OPDS was established with the idea that it would create a special forum for political, defence and security co-operation with a focus on conflict management. (15)

Rather surprisingly, in a subsequent letter dated 14 May 1996 and addressed to his colleagues in the rest of SADC, President Masire of Botswana, the then SADC chairperson, declared the OPDS officially established and stated that it should start to operate. The letter also stated that Zimbabwean President Mugabe would serve as the interim chairperson of the Organ until the next summit meeting in August of that year. It was then agreed within SADC that an extraordinary summit meeting would be hosted in Botswana on 28 June 1996, officially to launch the OPDS. (16) The SADC Summit in Gaborone did not deviate from this and the OPDS was accordingly legitimised by SADC. President Mugabe was also elected as chairperson of this new security organ. (17)

It seems that at the time of the launch of the OPDS there was a widespread belief that the process had been rushed. One possible explanation is that it had already become clear during the 1995 SADC Summit that President Mugabe expected to play a bigger role in SADC. At that stage he apparently envisaged the new security sector to be allocated to Zimbabwe. More specifically, it seemed that Mugabe believed that Zimbabwe had a right to a commanding position in any new grouping, similar to the prominent role it had earlier played in the former Frontline States (FLS). (18) Interestingly, Botswana, amongst others, wanted to prevent Mugabe from becoming the new SADC chairperson, and it is believed that President Masire wanted to ensure that, as a compromise, Zimbabwe be given chairpersonship of the OPDS rather than that of SADC. (19)

More importantly, a clause in the communique that was released after the Gaborone Summit stated that the OPDS would "function independently" of other structures (20)--a clause that could be considered as "fatal". (21) Zimbabwe, the OPDS chair since establishment, interpreted this to mean that the OPDS should function independently of SADC proper. The main thrust of the Zimbabwean argument was that SADC was a donor-funded economic development body, and that the Southern African region could not entrust its political and security functions to it. In contrast, South Africa, the SADC chair at that time, argued that the clause referred to the intention that the OPDS should not function like other SADC sectors (in SADC, member states are given the responsibility to co-ordinate specific sectors, such as food, infrastructure and trade). This meant that South Africa's argument essentially entailed that conflict management was too important to be the responsibility of a single member state and therefore that it should operate differently than other SADC functions. (22)

In view of the above, Breytenbach articulated SADC's problems as follows: (23)
   The crucial issue here is independence, that is, is the Organ
   inside, or outside SADC? What actually happened was that
   SADC was split into two, the socio-economic and the security
   legs; the chairmanship was to rotate (but never did)--one head
   of state would be in charge of SADC and another in charge of
   the Organ. This could only create friction.

In addition, observers have also cited other problems such as the fact that there was no formal provision for any link or interaction between the socio-economic and OPDS wings of SADC, and that early warning structures and civil society participation in SADC processes had not received proper attention. Yet, it can be argued that the most serious problem and greatest challenge to the future of SADC revolved around the institutional relationship between SADC and the OPDS, and specifically the fact that the OPDS had been created as an institution that was to "function independently". To this end, in 1997, President Mandela of South Africa as the SADC chairperson at the time, threatened to resign as chair unless the status of the OPDS within SADC was clarified. (24) It should also be noted that several commentators asserted that many of the problems in this regard were related to the fact that South Africa and Zimbabwe, the traditional power rivals in the region, were at the time chairs of respectively SADC and the OPDS. (25) To this can be added the fact that "Mugabe considers himself the senior statesman in Southern Africa. Whereas Mugabe is the senior statesman in the region, Mandela is undoubtedly the most charismatic leader, with unparalleled international clout". (26) In other words, personality clashes were part of SADC's problems and affected the ability of SADC to deal with issues of peace and security in an effective and coherent manner.


It can rightly be argued that these problems would have been little more than a footnote in SADC's history, if they were not directly responsible for SADC's inability to respond meaningfully to the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and in Lesotho. (27) Far from acting as a security community, where unified, proactive action takes place on the basis of a clear vision or strategic goal of what is to be achieved, SADC member states became involved in these conflicts in a dubious, ad hoc and haphazard manner. This unfortunate state of affairs relates directly to a statement made earlier by Tsie, that: (28)
   There is presently confusion and stalemate over the respective
   leadership roles of the two chairpersons. The vexing question is:
   should President Mandela as chair of SADC take the initiative in
   pre-empting and resolving regional conflicts or should that role
   be left to President Mugabe as chair of the Organ?

In August 1998, SADC became the focus of international attention when Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia decided to take part in an intervention operation in the DRC. The decision was based on requests from President Laurent Kabila for military assistance against advancing rebel forces (the DRC became a member state of SADC in 1997). South Africa specifically stressed the need for a peaceful solution to the problem and declined to send troops. This resulted in criticism from President Mugabe, as the leading figure in the mission to support the regime of Kabila; a leader who attained power through military force, but who was regarded to be "legitimate" by President Sam Nujoma of Namibia. (29)

The South African decision eventually proved to be a wise one, since Rwanda and Uganda also decided to become involved in the DRC conflict but in support of the rebel movements. (30) Another important point relates to the view that Zimbabwe's main motive was actually an effort to secure and promote Zimbabwean business interests in the DRC. It was also reported that Angola's interest was to prevent the Angolan rebel force, Unita, from using the DRC as a rear base. (31) Be that as it may, from a technical-intervention point of view the undertaking was ad hoc and was not organised under SADC auspices, although it did receive retroactive endorsement from SADC. (32)

It is common knowledge that the crisis in the DRC (and the Great Lakes region) that has unfolded since 1998, has become one of the most complex and perplexing post-Cold War events, laying waste to one of Africa's most volatile, largest and mineral-rich states. (33) Since independence in 1960, it has become one of the most violent areas in Africa, sometimes referred to as Africa's "World War".

In September 1998, shortly after Kabila's request for assistance, South Africa and Botswana intervened militarily in Lesotho in an attempt to prevent a possible coup by the Lesotho armed forces and to assist the Lesotho government in restoring law and order following election-related unrest. The decision was based on and justified by referring to the fact that SADC had been directly approached for intervention by the Prime Minister of Lesotho, Pakalitha Mosisili; that the intervention was based on agreements reached in SADC; and that all attempts at peacefully resolving the conflict or dispute had failed. (34) The fact is that the undertaking was labelled a "SADC force" in name after a series of phone calls between the respective heads of state. (35) Moreover, on the morning of 22 September when the "SADC force" moved into Lesotho, only 600 South African soldiers acted under the banner of the organisation. They were only joined when approximately 200 soldiers from Botswana arrived in Maseru before nightfall on 22 September. (36)

The intervention was immediately questioned and some observers even claimed that the operation could not be justified on the basis of international law. More specifically, it was argued that propping up a shaky regime that was unable to represent and govern Lesotho, could not be regarded as a proper response in terms of international law. (37) Only the contention that South Africa had intervened to protect certain South African interests in Lesotho such as the Katse Dam, would seem to have clear existence in international law. (38) It was furthermore pointed out that there were no clear political guidelines on the part of SADC regarding military responses to internal conflicts in SADC member states. (39)

Against this background, Williams proclaimed that co-ordinating sub-regional approaches to conflict resolution would require the urgent activation and/or restructuring of SADC's Organ on Politics, Defence and Security and that there was a need to transform different national interests into a common and cohesive sub-regional strategy. In this regard, it was contended that the DRC conflict revealed a rift between the foreign policy paradigms of Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola on the one hand, and those of South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Tanzania on the other. Specifically, the involvement of Zimbabwe and Angola in the DRC had shown little concern for the longer term and immensely more complex political-diplomatic strategies being pursued by South Africa and other Southern African states. (40)

It can rightly be stated that a regional security structure that is deeply divided cannot be effective. At most, as often happens in the case of weak international organisations, one or more states sometimes use the organisation to pursue narrow national interests. The extent to which either the Lesotho intervention or the regional involvement in the DRC can in all honesty be referred to as SADC interventions or operations is doubtful. (41) It should, however, be noted that the problems and friction surrounding the OPDS, its structure and its relationship did receive serious attention from SADC's leadership, especially from 1999 onwards. This process will now be examined in more detail--specifically with a view to obtain greater clarity on whether or not the region has been moving towards a more functional and effective security structure.


The "two summits" issue has paralysed the SADC Organ since the September 1997 SADC Summit in Malawi. Especially evident was a number of differences between the South African and Zimbabwean positions. (42) In fact, prior to the Malawi Summit, South Africa's President Mandela wrote a letter to his Zimbabwean counterpart and other regional leaders to inform them that, while he would abide by a majority decision, South Africa would resign as SADC chair if the Summit agreed to a separate Organ Summit. (43) In view of this, the Malawi Summit decided to convene an extraordinary meeting of the SADC Heads of State or Government. This meeting was held in Mozambique on 2 March 1998, but no decision was taken on the matter. However, a Committee of Three Presidents (Mozambique, Malawi and Namibia), chaired by President Joachim Chissano of Mozambique, was set up to resolve the SADC Organ impasse. (44)

At the SADC Summit in Mauritius in September 1998, SADC's structural challenges received little attention as a result of the emerging crisis in the DRC (whose president attended for the first time as SADC member). The situation thereafter held more promise and by the time of the August 1999 SADC Summit, events in the DRC and Lesotho had made it apparent to all parties that a compromise arrangement on the OPDS was urgent. According to De Coning, two critical events during 1999 created a historical opportunity for the crisis to be resolved. Specifically, moves were afoot to improve relations between Harare and Pretoria. Firstly, President Thabo Mbeki replaced President Mandela as South African head of state in May 1999 and secondly, South Africa passed the SADC chair to Mozambique at the August Summit. Moreover, at the August 1999 Summit in Mozambique it was decided that the Council of (Foreign) Ministers should review the operations of all SADC institutions, including the OPDS, and report to the Summit within six months, (45) thereby creating a sense of urgency and momentum.

The Summit was followed by intense behind the scenes diplomacy. An extraordinary meeting of the SADC ministers of foreign affairs, defence, state security and public security, known as the Inter-State, Defence and Security Committee (ISDSC), (46) was convened in Swaziland from 26-27 October 1999. The meeting agreed to recommend that the OPDS should in future be part of SADC, thereby breaking the impasse that had paralysed the Southern African community and its security apparatus since the Malawi Summit of 1997. In short, the Swaziland meeting agreed that the OPDS should be a structure of SADC and should report to the SADC Summit. The OPDS should furthermore be chaired by a head of state that would operate in consultation with an outgoing and an incoming chair of the OPDS (this arrangement being referred to as the troika). The chair of the troika would be elected annually and under the OPDS there would be a Committee of Ministers responsible for Foreign Affairs, Defence, State Security (Intelligence) and Public Security (Police). At a lower level, it was agreed to retain the ISDSC and the Ministerial Committee on Politics and Diplomacy. (47)


The Swaziland meeting was followed by further meetings. On 27 October 1999 an extraordinary ministerial meeting of ISDSC and the SADC Council of (Foreign) Ministers, issued a recommendation reiterating that the OPDS should be considered to be part of SADC and that it should report to the SADC Summit. It also reported that consensus had been reached on all issues relating to the structure of the OPDS, as well as on a process for refining a draft Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation (a document basically outlining the structures and objectives of the OPDS) and on a draft Defence Pact. (48) In August 2000, the SADC foreign ministers once again discussed the need for SADC, as stated in the words of South Africa's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to "have the best possible impact and be efficient and cost-effective in using both human and other resources". (49) This paved the way for the SADC Heads of State and Government to finally deal with the issue.

Against this background the SADC Summit that convened in Malawi from 12-14 August 2001 formally adopted the OPDS as a "SADC mechanism" by signing the Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation. (50) The Protocol was signed by all member states except Angola (due to a legal-technical matter expected to be resolved in the near future). (51) The Summit unanimously elected President Joachim Chissano of Mozambique as the chairperson and President Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania as deputy chairperson for the 2001/2002 term, thus completing the troika which included the past chairperson, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, as the outgoing chair. (52)

The Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security finally outlined the chairpersonship of the OPDS and furthermore reiterated previous decisions as far as institutional arrangements were concerned. The Protocol provides that the OPDS shall be an "institution of SADC" with the following structures: (53)

--A Chairperson.

--A "troika" consisting of the Chairperson of the OPDS, an Incoming Chairperson who shall be the Deputy Chairperson of the OPDS, and the Outgoing Chairperson.

--A Ministerial Committee consisting of ministers responsible for foreign affairs, defence, public security and state security.

--An Inter-State Politics and Diplomacy Committee that shall comprise the ministers responsible for foreign affairs.

--An Inter-State Defence and Security Committee that shall comprise the ministers responsible for defence, public security and state security.

--Such other Sub-structures as may be established by any of the ministerial committees.

The Protocol also provides that the SADC Secretariat shall provide services to the OPDS and determines that the broad objective of the OPDS shall be to promote peace and security in the region. More specifically (and this constitutes a relatively minor deviation from the 1996 SADC decision (54)), the responsibilities of the OPDS are to: (55)

--Protect the people and safeguard the development of the region against instability arising from the breakdown of law and order, intra-state conflict, inter-state conflict and aggression.

--Promote political co-operation among state parties and the evolution of common political values and institutions.

--Develop common foreign policy approaches on issues of mutual concern.

--Promote regional co-operation and co-operation on matters related to security and defence and establish appropriate mechanisms to this end.

--Prevent, contain and resolve inter- and intra-state conflict by peaceful means.

--Consider enforcement action in accordance with international law and as a matter of last resort where peaceful means have failed.

--Promote the development of democratic institutions and practices within the territories of state parties and encourage the observance of universal human rights as provided for in the Charters and Conventions of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU now the African Union--AU) and the United Nations (UN).

--Consider the development of a collective security capacity and conclude a Mutual Defence pact to respond to external military threats.

--Develop close co-operation between the police and state security services of state parties in order to address cross border crime; and promote a community based approach to domestic security.

--Observe and encourage state parties to implement UN, AU and other international conventions and treaties on arms control, disarmament and peaceful relations between states.

--Develop the peacekeeping capacity of national defence forces and co-ordinate the participation of state parties in international and regional peacekeeping operations.

--Enhance regional capacity in respect of disaster management and co-ordination of international humanitarian assistance.

Importantly, the Protocol also spells out the parameters for SADC engagement in regional conflicts--an important development given the haphazard and ad hoc "SADC" intervention operations in the DRC and Lesotho in 1998. The Organ is mandated to seek or resolve "any significant inter-state conflict" between state parties or between a state party and non-state party. A significant inter-state conflict shall include a conflict over territorial boundaries or natural resources; a conflict in which an act of aggression or other form of military force has occurred or been threatened; and a conflict which threatens peace and security in the region or in the territory of a state party which is not a party to the conflict.

The Organ may also seek to resolve "any significant intra-state conflict" within the territory of a state party. A significant intra-state conflict shall include large-scale violence between sections of the population or between the state and sections of the population, including genocide, ethnic cleansing and gross violation of human rights; a military coup or other threat to the legitimate authority of a state; a condition of civil war or insurgency; and a conflict which threatens peace and security in the region or in the territory of another state party. (56)

In view of the above, Article 10A of the SADC Treaty was likewise amended in a related but separate procedure to provide for the above-mentioned changes. (57) It would thus seem that this process has finally brought a long and problematic issue to a successful closure. However, the question remains as to whether or not Southern Africa now has a functioning and effective security architecture.


It could be said that SADC took a significant step in the right direction in August 2001 and that the organisation's problems have been resolved, at least on paper. It could also be argued that real progress would hinge on more than progress on paper. To this end, the recent developments do not necessarily imply that the region will now have a functioning and effective security structure. The Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation will only come into force once it has been ratified by two-thirds of the member states. (58) Also, a number of other challenges may persist and these are likely to have a negative effect on the functioning and cohesion of the OPDS.

Firstly, the position of Zimbabwe (the SADC member state that ironically was earlier identified to host the European-sponsored SADC Regional Peacekeeping Training Centre) remains problematic. In this regard, President Mugabe, who was next in line to be deputy chair of SADC, has been told that the way he was going about land reform made him unfit to be a future chairperson of SADC. Instead of going through the motions of electing Mugabe at the Luanda Summit in October 2002 as the new deputy chair, the SADC Heads of State or Government practically informed him that the image of the subregion would suffer under him as chair. (59)

However, it needs to be noted that South Africa--certainly one of SADC's leading states--does not seem to be willing to criticise the Zimbabwean government for casting a shadow over the Southern African region's commitment to good governance, human rights and the rule of law, with its handling of land reform. In fact, President Mbeki took the stance that Zimbabwe had become a smokescreen for those (presumably Western states) who did not want to address Africa's other problems. (60) Similarly, SADC leaders took a tough stance on Zimbabwe during a meeting with delegates of the European Union (EU) in November 2002 in Mozambique. More specifically, EU delegates could not persuade SADC to get tough with the Zimbabwean government on the issue of land reform and the appalling human rights situation in the country. (61)

Thus, while SADC leaders have practically expressed their discomfort with the political situation in Zimbabwe, they have not been in favour of any isolation or outright condemnation of the Zimbabwean government. Although it could be argued that this is indicative of a sense of mutuality in SADC, namely a sense of belonging together as a group of individual entities, the Zimbabwean issue is actually obstructing the realisation of an effective security community. For many commentators Zimbabwe has become the litmus test for commitment to good governance and human rights in Southern Africa. (62) In this context, the much-needed building of common identities, spreading of moral obligations and mutual responsibility as the building blocks of long-term security can hardly take root as long as the current problems in Zimbabwe prevail. To this end, the strong appeal by former South African president Mandela at the 1997 SADC Summit that member states attend to issues of human rights and democratic principles, still underpins the very essence of successfully dealing with security issues on a multilateral and regional basis. That is, unless there is security at home, there cannot be a lasting security agenda at broader level. (63) Thus, from a regional security perspective, the ongoing political turbulence in Zimbabwe remains a matter of serious concern.

Secondly, if the war in the DRC cannot be resolved by the current peace initiatives, there is little chance of the OPDS functioning and even less of it playing a role in managing or resolving the conflict. This is due to the "bipolar structure" of the region referred to earlier, which in recent years found its clearest expression in the different approaches to conflict resolution. (64) In this regard, it is important to mention that since 1998 economic motives and commercial agendas have come into play in the DRC conflict. A UN report of November 2001 specifically cited illegal exploitation of natural resources and other forms of wealth in the DRC as a serious threat to peace and security in the region. The panel "confirmed a pattern of continued exploitation carried out by numerous state and non-state actors, including rebel forces and armed groups, conducted behind various facets in order to conceal the true nature of the activities". Significantly, from a Southern African point of view, Zimbabwe was reported to be the "most active" of the countries responsible for exploiting resources in the DRC, while Angola and Namibia have also specifically been cited. (65) In June 2000, President Mugabe of Zimbabwe openly revealed that his country's participation in the DRC would be partly financed by the proceeds from the Oryx Diamond Company. (66) The problem, however, as De Soysa rightly points out, is that some groups stand to "do well out of war". Resources are seen as a "honey pot" that provides incentives for profit-seeking groups to engage in violent actions.

This logic explains why conflict appears and reappears frequently despite the deleterious effects of wanton destruction in civil war situations. Thus war in Africa--including the DRC conflict--is and has been at least partly fuelled by the struggle for control of minerals and other resources. (67) This perhaps offers some explanation as to why the Zimbabwean armed forces have been reluctant to withdraw from the DRC since 1999--notwithstanding UN Security Council resolution 1234 of 1999 that called for the "immediate signing of a ceasefire agreement allowing for the orderly withdrawal of all foreign forces", and which also provided for the provision of a UN peacekeeping force to schedule and supervise the withdrawal of all foreign forces. (68) On the positive side, it is important to note that the Namibian and Angolan forces were withdrawn from the DRC while the Zimbabwean contingents started to leave the DRC in September 2002. This holds the promise of a less divided SADC as African states took opposing stances with regard to the conflict in the DRC since the outbreak of conflict in 1998.

Furthermore, taking into consideration that multinational peacekeeping exercises are considered one of the practical outcomes of security communities, it needs to be said that peacekeeping exercises in Southern Africa have been very negatively affected by the conflict in the DRC. SADC had its last exercise in South Africa in April 1999 (Exercise Blue Crane) and despite the fact that this exercise proved that Southern African troops could be called on to police the region, several states had less than 200 participants at the exercise. It was specifically notable that Zimbabwe and Angola each had less than 30 representatives as a result of the fact that their forces were involved in the DRC and Angolan conflicts. Considering the fact that these states are relatively strong states in the region and that the Zimbabwean forces are fairly experienced in international peacekeeping, their limited participation has certainly detracted from the value of the exercise. (69)

Thirdly, turning to the attitudinal base of SADC, there seems to be a desire to deepen co-operation and community. The Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation clearly states that the OPDS constitutes an appropriate institutional framework through which member states could co-ordinate policies and activities in the area of politics, defence and security. At the same time, the principles of "strict respect for sovereignty, sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, good neighbourliness, independence, non-aggression and noninterference" have also been recognised and re-affirmed. (70) This would seem to imply that the idea of "changing sovereignty" in order to increase regional co-operation, peace and development, in other words a willingness to except a "softening" of sovereignty and the importance of governance (or supranational co-operation), is still a challenge in the Southern African context.

Fourthly, decision-making within the OPDS is another matter which may impair the functioning of SADC and the OPDS in the field of conflict prevention, management and resolution. If decision-making is based on consensus, it may result in watered down decisions or even no decisions in cases where action is required. If a formula can be found by which member states will have to abide by majority decisions within the OPDS, there may be a greater chance of success. (71) In this regard it needs to be noted that the African heads of state or government recently responded to this challenge by endorsing the Constitutive Act of the African Union in July 2001. This Act provides for decisions of The Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the newly established continental organisation to be taken by consensus or, failing which, by a two-thirds majority of the member states. (72)

In addition to the above, a number of other challenges also pose problems which are important to the immediate future of SADC and more specifically to the full operationalisation of the OPDS. However, these challenges are some of the most serious in the Southern African context and if addressed, related problems could (and should) also be addressed with a view to move towards the identification of shared regional interests on the basis of common (co-operative) security. This includes building common identities and sharing moral obligations and mutual responsibility--all of which are building blocks of long-term security. This could lead to proactive security co-operation in terms of a vision or strategic goal of what is to be achieved. The structures and resources needed to build a community, as well as the required steps and phases of this process, could then also be identified and dealt with systematically.

Thus, what needs to manifest in the Southern African region is a firm attitudinal base that reflects a serious concern by member states that the security of the region as a whole is of paramount importance and that involvement based on mutuality needs to be pursued. As previously indicated, the political will to implement the necessary steps to realise a security community is crucial to ensure its effective functioning.

Recently, there have been indications that progress is being made to introduce a Defence Pact to the Southern African region, although SADC has decided at its October 2002 Summit in Luanda, Angola, that more time is needed to digest the implications of such a Pact. (73) Should a Defence Pact be endorsed at some future point, it would probably replace or modify the Mutual Defence Pact that was earlier signed between Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia in 1999. However, this will not necessarily bring SADC closer to the ideal of an effective security community since collective security (as associated with security communities) is not so much aimed at protecting "against" each other, as at protecting each other in the face of what contemporary security analysts often call "threats without enemies". In fact, there is always the danger that such a Pact could be used by heads of state or government to protect each other, instead of being used as a mechanism or platform to protect the people of the region.


In the final analysis, Schoeman's assessment seems to be accurate: (74)
   Vast amounts of money that could be spend on human development
   go into these wars (Angola and the DRC), making the
   prospect of peace and security a fading dream. It is time for the
   leadership of the Southern African region to muster the political
   that will make the OPDS a vehicle for the realisation of SADC's
   objectives of building a regional community that will enhance the
   dignity and safety of all its inhabitants.

It could nevertheless be argued that SADC's objectives are indeed aimed at building a security community in Southern Africa. Also, the establishment of the OPDS in 1996 indicated some commitment to secure stability in the Southern African region. Moreover, this development was clearly supposed to institutionalise "new security thinking" in SADC's organisational structures and activities, as well as to align security and development. It furthermore revealed some measure of seriousness to put regional security concerns above the security concerns of individual member states. However, there are still a number of factors that are preventing the Southern African region from moving in the direction of a functional security community, many of which are located with in the regional political context. It can also be argued that for SADC to reach the threshold of an effective security community, the idea of "changing sovereignty" in order to increase regional co-operation, peace and development, in other words a willingness to place less emphasis on sovereignty and a high premium on governance (or supranational cooperation), is imperative. Realistically speaking, the challenge is to generate more political will with a view to address these obstacles and to build upon the fact that SADC has already begun to forge a common destiny and regional identity since its inception in 1992.

Whether the SADC leadership is able to mobilise a stronger attitudinal base or critical mass of positive leadership and capitalise on the decision taken at the SADC Summit in Malawi in 2001 regarding the functioning of the OPDS, is an open question. SADC may be regarded as a multinational institution that has made some progress in pursuing the ideal of a security community. At the same time, the current political leadership will have to display further political commitment to move away from the stagnation that has plagued the organisation since the inception of the OPDS in 1996. After all, the political will to implement the necessary steps to realise an effective security community is crucial to the operationalisation and functioning of such a community in Southern Africa.


(1.) Breytenbach, W, "Failure of Security Co-operation in SADC: The Suspension of the Organ for Politics, Defence and Security", South African Journal of International Affairs, Vol 7, No 1, Summer 2000, p 95.

(2.) Bischoff, P, "SADC as a Foreign Policy Actor: The Challenges of Cooperation in Southern Africa". Paper delivered at the Africa Institute of South Africa [] Anniversary Conference, 2000, p 1.

(3.) Soderbaum, F, "The New Regionalism in Southern Africa", Politeia, Vol 17, No 3, 1998.

(4.) Van Aardt, M, "The Emerging Security Framework in Southern Africa: Regime or Community", Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol XIX, No 1, May 1997, p 4.

(5.) Buzan, B, Waever, O and J De Wilde, Security: A New Framework for Analysis, Lynne Rienner Publishers, London, 1998, p 12.

(6.) Van Aardt, M, op cit, p 5.

(7.) Dittgen, H and D Peters, "EU and NATO: Competing Visions of Security in Europe". Paper delivered at the [] Pan European International Relations Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on International Relations, 8-10 September 2001, University of Kent, Canterbury, pp 4-5.

(8.) Ibid.

(9.) Van Aardt, M, op cit, p 6.

(10.) Dittgen, H and D Peters, op cit, pp 6-7 and 9.

(11.) Van Aardt, M, op cit, pp 7-11.

(12.) Ibid.

(13.) SADC, Treaty of the Southern African Development Community. Adopted at the SADC Summit, Windhoek, Namibia, August 1992.

(14.) Cilliers, J, "Building Security in Southern Africa", ISS Monograph Series, No 43, November 1999, p 22.

(15.) De Coning, C, "Breaking the SADC Organ Impasse: Report of a Seminar on the Operationalisation of the SADC Organ", ACCORD Occasional Paper, No 6/99, p 1.

(16.) Cilliers, J, op cit, pp 22-23.

(17.) SADC, Communique. Issued by the Heads of State and Government on 28 June 1996 in Gaborone, Botswana.

(18.) The former Frontline States grouping was disbanded in 1994 as the entente which had served as the effective political arm of SADCC in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

(19.) Cilliers, J, op cit, p 21; and Van Aardt, M, op cit, pp 14-15.

(20.) SADC, Communique, op cit.

(21.) De Coning, C, op cit, p 1.

(22.) Ibid, p 2.

(23.) Breytenbach, W, op cit, p 89.

(24.) Ibid.

(25.) De Coning, C, op cit, p 2.

(26.) Matlosa, K, "Dilemmas of Security in Southern Africa: Problems and Prospects for Security Co-operation", in Maloka, E, (ed), A United States of Africa?, Africa Institute of SA, Pretoria, 2001, p 409.

(27.) De Coning, C, op cit, p 2.

(28.) Tsie, B, "Regional Security in Southern Africa: Whither the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security?", Global Dialogue, Vol 3.3, December 1998, p2.

(29.) Hough, M, "Collective Security and its Variants: A Conceptual Analysis with Specific Reference to SADC and ECOWAS", Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol XX, No 2, December 1998, p 37.

(30.) Tsie, B, op cit, p 9.

(31.) The Star (Johannesburg), 6 November 1998.

(32.) Berman, E and K Sams, "Constructive Engagement: Western Efforts to Develop African Peacekeeping", ISS Monograph, No 33, December 1998, p9.

(33.) Breytenbach, W, Chilemba, D, Brown, T A and C Plantive, "Conflicts in the Congo: From Kivu to Kabila", African Security Review, Vol 8, No 5, 1999, p 33.

(34.) Hough, M, op cit, p 38.

(35.) Berman, E and K Sams, op cit, p 9.

(36.) Neethling, T, "Conditions for Successful Entry and Exit: An Assessment of SADC Allied Operations in Lesotho", ISS Monograph, No 44, February 2000, p 141.

(37.) Barrie, G, "South Africa's Forcible Intervention in Lesotho", De Rebus, January 1999, p 47.

(38.) Hough, M, op cit, pp 37-38.

(39.) Ibid.

(40.) Williams, R, "Challenges for South and Southern Africa; Towards Non-Consensual Peace Missions", in Cilliers, J and G Mills (eds), From Peacekeeping To Complex Emergencies: Peace Support Missions in Africa, South African Institute of International Affairs and Institute for Security Studies, 1999, p 171.

(41.) Schoeman, M, "Regional Security in Africa: Can the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Deliver Peace and Security in Southern Africa?", DPMN Bulletin, Vol IX, No 3, June 2002, p 20.

(42.) Tapfumanyeni, A W, "The SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security: Interpreting the Decision of the Maputo 1997 SADC Summit", ACCORD Occasional Paper, No 9/99, p 1.

(43.) Cilliers, J, op cit, pp 28-29.

(44.) SADC. Communique. Issued by the Heads of State and Government on 18 August 1999 in Maputo, Mozambique.

(45.) Cilliers, J, op cit, p 32.

(46.) The ISDSC is an institution where ministers responsible for defence, home affairs, police, state security, intelligence and immigration can meet to discuss issues of mutual concern.

(47.) Cilliers, J, op cit, p 33; and De Coning, C, op cit, p 2.

(48.) Cilliers, J, op cit, p 34.

(49.) Sowetan (Johannesburg), 4 August 2000.

(50.) Hanekom, H, "Southern African Development Community: Special Report on the SADC Summit held in Malawi from 12 to 14 August 2001", Africa Institute of South Africa Current Affairs Briefing, No 33/2001, pp 1-2.

(51.) Schoeman, M, op cit, p 20.

(52.) Hanekom, H, op cit, p 1.

(53.) SADC, Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation. Adopted on 14 August 2001 by the Heads of State or Government in Blantyre, Malawi.

(54.) SADC, Communique. Issued by the Heads of State and Government on 28 June 1996 in Gaborone, Botswana.

(55.) SADC, Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, op cit.

(56.) Ibid.

(57.) SADC, Agreement Amending the Treaty of the Southern African Development Community. Adopted on 14 August 2001 by the Heads of State or Government in Blantyre, Malawi.

(58.) SADC, Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, op cit.

(59.) Sunday Times (Johannesburg), 6 October 2002.

(60.) Hanekom, H, "Zimbabwe: South Africa's Attitude", Africa Institute of South Africa Current Affairs Briefing, No 38/2002, p 4.

(61.) Hanekom, H, "SADC: Summit Plans in Doubt", Africa Institute of South Africa Current Affairs Briefing, No 42/2002, p 2.

(62.) Hanekom, H, "Zimbabwe: South Africa's Attitude", op cit, p 4.

(63.) Pretoria News (Pretoria), 9 September 1997.

(64.) Ibid.

(65.) IRIN News, "DRC: UN Confirms Continued Exploitation of DRC's Resources", http://www.i.../report.asp?ReportID = 15422&SelectRegion = Great_Lakes &SelectCountry = DR.

(66.) IRIN News, "Diamond Company to Pay for Role in DRC", phtml.

(67.) De Soysa, I, "The Resource Curse: Are Civil Wars Driven by Rapacity or Paucity", in Berdal, M and Malone, M, (eds), Greed and Grievance: Economic Agendas in Civil Wars, Lynne Rienner Publishers, London, 2000, p 115.

(68.) United Nations Security Council, resolution 1234 of 9 April 1999.

(69.) Neethling, T, "Exercise Blue Crane: Forward with Peacekeeping in South Africa?", ISSUP Bulletin, No 5/99, p 7.

(70.) SADC, Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, op cit.

(71.) Schoeman, M, op cit, p 20.

(72.) African Union, Constitutive Act of the African Union adopted by the OAU Summit, Lome, Togo on 11 July 2000.

(73.) Sunday Times (Johannesburg), 6 October 2002.

(74.) Schoeman, M, op cit, p 20.
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Author:Neethling, Theo
Publication:Strategic Review for Southern Africa
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:May 1, 2003
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