COVID-19 threatens peace and security in Southern Africa

By Sharon Tshipa

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the socio-economic landscape globally, and peace and security have not been spared from the impacts of COVID-19, the SADC Executive Secretary said on Friday.

Expounding, Stergomena Lawrence Tax said cybercrime and other criminal acts have been on the increase, while the sale of counterfeit medical supplies and equipment have also increased with potential long-term implications on the health-security nexus and stability in the region.

Even more worrying is the increase in cases of gender-based violence, she said while speaking at the start of ‘The 22nd Meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ (MCO) on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation video conference’.

The emerging challenges she said call for the region to remain vigilant and innovative in devising ways of addressing the security impacts of COVID-19 in a holistic manner.

As part of its think-tanking mandate, the Secretariat has carried out a security threat assessment, which shows that the region is marked by several obstacles to socio-economic and political transformation, including poverty, inequality, and unemployment. The assessment categorizes peace and security threats into five clusters relating to terrorism and cybersecurity; transnational organized crime; climate change and epidemics; governance and democracy; and cross-cutting issues. Cross cutting issues include marginalization and exclusion, radicalization and extremism, political and economic exploitation, as well as forms of violence, including gender-based violence, criminal activities, abuse of social media, and a migration crisis.

In agreement, Sibusiso Moyo, Chairperson of the SADC Ministerial Committee of the Organ, said there is therefore an urgent need to adapt to the new normal and review ways of conducting business.

To overcome the rising challenges, the establishment of a Regional Peace Fund is in the talks in order to avoid a last-minute rush in resource mobilisation prior to a deployment.