A common aphorism is that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.
A variation of that saying is that hell is full of people who had good intentions and heaven full of those who did good works.
The simple home truth being put across when people use that expression is that while good intentions are most welcome, they are not enough.
It is a truism that comes to mind when one considers how the region has been handling the matter of the insurgency in Mozambique.
The rebellion started in 2017; that was four years ago.
In that time, more than 2,500 people have been killed, more than 700,000 have been displaced, an unknown number have been injured and maimed, and countless livelihoods have been permanently destroyed.
At the 37th Ordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government in Tshwane, South Africa in 2017, the Mozambique crisis was not on the agenda. Perhaps it was still early days.
For the 38th Ordinary Summit in Windhoek, Namibia the following year, again there was no Mozambique on the official agenda.
And then at the 39th Ordinary Summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the region’s leaders did not have the growing disaster in Mozambique as an agenda item.
It was only in 2020 at an Extraordinary Organ Troika plus the Republic of Mozambique Summit that the matter finally made the official.
Since then, SADC leaders have said all the right things concerning how they stand in solidarity with the people and Government of Mozambique, and how the region will not stand by while chaos unfolds.
But a Summit in November 2020 in Gaborone, Botswana did not yield much by way of results for the besieged people of a fellow SADC member because President Felipe Nyusi of Mozambique did not show up.
The leaders present decided that the best way forward was for the next extraordinary summit, scheduled for January 2021, be held in Mozambique itself, seemingly thinking that this would compel their colleague to sit down with them and chart a viable way forward.
They obviously did not count on the eventuality that President Nyusi would cancel that summit. It was eventually only held three months later.
And now the follow-up summit to the April one has been postponed. This time because the presidents of Botswana and South Africa were not available.
In the meantime Mozambique burns, women are raped and children are killed.
So what has all this to do with the road to hell being paved with good intentions?
What is evident is that SADC has a well-established and commendable tradition of respecting member states’ sovereignty, allowing countries in trouble to take the lead in resolving their issues, and giving due deference to the leaders of individual nations.
That is all well and good.
But at what point should a decision be made for the collective good even where there are reluctant parties? At which stage is the bigger picture of the region’s collective security looked at as being more important than the otherwise understandable political sensitivities that are attendant to international law and order?
Good intentions of their own are not enough.
They need to be backed by reasonable enforcement of international norms in as far as they pertain to the sanctity of human life and the pursuit of collective peace and security.
The SADC Mutual Defence Pact provides the bases on which the bloc can – and should – act rapidly to assist the people of Mozambique and safeguard our collective stability as a region.
Articles 6 of the Mutual Defence Pact provides for collective action such as self-defence because “an armed attack against a state party shall be considered a threat to regional peace and security and such an attack shall be met with immediate action”.
And then Article 9 of the pact provides for defence co-operation, while also making provision for collaboration in training, joint military exercises, and intelligence.
The pact was obviously signed with all the best intentions. But it is not enough to leave it as a mere paper tiger. Good intentions must be back by good actions.
We are told that the extraordinary summit that was postponed at the last minute this past week was supposed to consider a plan drafted by a technical assessment team to deploy the SADC Standby Force in Mozambique to aid the people and government of that country in their battle against vicious insurgents.
Now that the extraordinary summit has been postponed, because of the good intention of not wanting to table the intervention proposals with deputy presidents rather than their bosses, it is hoped that the region will not go another three months before the meeting is actually held.
All these good intentions are appreciated, but there are people dying and suffering in Mozambique.
They deserve more than our goodwill. They deserve our good actions.