In the first brief the history of the SADC was charted in its development from anti-colonial liberation alliance to regional economic integration organisation. In this brief, the second of four, I look in detail at the current institutional framework of the SADC following the 2001 restructuring.


“A common future in a regional community that will ensure economic well-being, improvement of the standards of living and quality of life, freedom and social justice and peace and security for the peoples of Southern Africa.  This shared vision is anchored on the common values and principles and the historical and cultural affinities that exist between the peoples of Southern Africa”[1].


“To promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development through efficient productive systems, deeper co-operation and integration, good governance, and durable peace and security, so that the region emerges as a competitive and effective player in international relations and the world economy”[2].


Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


The Summit of Heads of State or Government (The Summit)

The Summits is the SADC’s highest decision-making body.  Made up by the Heads of State of each member nation, it is ultimately responsible for the overall policy direction of the Community.  It also has the final say on the most important internal administrative and executive decisions: for example, reviewing and amending the RIDSP and SIPO; adopting and amending the SADC Treaties; and appointing the Executive General of the Secretariat and the judges of the Tribunal[3].  

The Summit meets once a year, usually around August/September, and elects and new Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson at each annual meet on a one-year rotation.  As decisions need to be made throughout the year, a Troika system was implemented in 1999, which enables a three man steering group to act swiftly and consistently on the Summit’s behalf.  The Summit Troika consists of the Summit Chairperson, the incoming Chairperson (Deputy Chairperson) and the outgoing Chairperson.  

The current Troika is made up of Chairperson, President Ian Khama of Botswana, Deputy Chairperson and incoming Chair, King Mswati III of Swaziland, and outgoing Chairperson, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.  The Troika system is also implemented at the level of the Organ, the Council of Ministers, and the Standing Committee of Senior Officials.

The Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation (Organ)

The Organ is the SADC body responsible for the promotion of peace and security in the region.  It is managed on a Troika basis.  The Chairperson of the Organ is always a Head of State or Government, and like the Summit Chairperson rotates annually.  The current Chairperson is President Felipe Nyusi of Mozambique, Deputy Chairperson is President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, and outgoing Chairperson is President Jacob Zuma of South Africa.  The Chairperson of the Organ ultimately reports to the Summit Chair.

The Tribunal

The Tribunal is SADC’s judicial body and is based in Windhoek, Namibia.  It is comprised of ten judges; five of whom are regular and appointed by the Summit, and the other five of whom are qualified judges of member states who are available to be called on should a regular judge be temporarily absent[4].  It ensures “adherence to, and proper interpretation of the provisions of, the SADC Treaty” and “adjudicates upon disputes referred to it”[5].

Originally also conceived of as the supreme regional judicial body, following decisions made in 2007 and 2008, which were critical of Zimbabwe’s land reform policy, the SADC Summit in 2010 ordered a review of its functions.  In spite of the review’s recommendations the Tribunal’s activities were suspended in 2011, and completely disbanded in 2012.  By 2015, the Tribunal was partially reinstated to hear only disputes between state parties.  This is a topic of immense interest and one that is subject to continued debate, it has also been covered and discussed extensively in a number of briefs by the HSF’s legal researcher Kameel Premhid.  Please see the referenced links for further reading[6].

The Council of Ministers (COM)

The COM is the principle advisory body to the Summit, comprised of one minister from each member state—almost always the minister responsible for foreign policy.  It puts forward possible policy development strategies for the Summit to review, oversees the functioning of the SADC more generally, and ensures that programmes—most notably the RISDP and SIPO—are being properly implemented.  The COM meets biannually, one meeting of which always immediately precedes the Summit, and is steered throughout the year by an independent Troika. 

The Standing Committee of Senior Officials

The Standing Committee is the technical advisory body responsible to the COM.  It meets twice a year, and consists of a permanent secretary from each member state, preferably from a ministry responsible for the economy.  

Sectoral and Cluster Ministerial Committees

These committees are directly responsible for overseeing the activities of the core areas of integration, and ensuring that the RISDP is being properly implemented, as well as providing the Council with technical and policy advice, in their respective area of competence[7].  It consists of ministers from each member state in the following clusters:

1. Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment

2. Infrastructure and Services

3. Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment

4. Social and Human Development (which includes the special programmes on the HIV/AIDS pandemic, gender equality, and education)

5. Politics, Defence and Security (this answers directly to the Organ)

6. Legal Affairs 

The Secretariat

The Secretariat is the principal administrative and executive body and oversees the day-to-day coordination, organisation and effective implementation of SADC programmes in order to realise the overall vision of regional integration, sustainable development and poverty eradication.  The Secretariat’s permanent headquarters are located in Gaborone, Botswana, and is headed by the Executive General—currently Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax (Tanzania)—who is appointed by the Summit for a once renewable four-year term.  


For SADC news, newsletters and media statements:

For regularly updated information on recent Summit and Council meetings and policy decisions:

Including the latest August 2015 Summit:

The third brief in the series will focus on how well these structures work by evaluating the successes and failures of the SADC since 2001 with respect to socio-economic development. 

Andrew Barlow