The National Museum of Tanzania has seen the flocking in of people of Southern Africa who convened for the 2019 SADC People Summit from the 13th to 17th of August 2019.The summit which is a platform for SADC people to share their varied stories of struggle ran under the theme “Rebuilding People’s Movements within Southern Africa’s climate, political and socioeconomic emergencies:
Towards radical and democratic alternatives and a just transition.” The theme sets out clearly the main objective of the summit which is to find strategies for building regional solidarity and citizens campaigns for social, environmental and economic justice towards the emancipation of Southern Africa.
Giving welcome remarks, Southern African People’s Solidarity Network (SAPSN) Secretariat, Janet Zhou labelled the summit as the “festival of the poor” emphasizing that this is the platform where the downtrodden of the SADC region amplify their voices in quest for climate, political and socioeconomic justice.
The Summit comes at an opportune time when SADC regional challenges are deep rooted in climatic, political and socioeconomic injustices. The climatic, political and socioeconomic outlook of the SADC region has undergone magnificent metamorphosis over the past decade to the detriment of the citizens whose rights are continually undermined.
Of all the issues discussed during the summit, issues to do with climate change and shrinking civic space in the region ruled the roost. Discussions brought forward that climate change has spelt untold suffering to some SADC member states as exemplified by the recent Cyclone Idai where thousands of lives have been lost in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi and millions worth of property having been destroyed. The political landscape in our region is marred with governance challenges characterized by political instabilities and we have seen this pulling down efforts towards national development.
Furthermore, SADC member states are characterized by the ever-shrinking space for civic activism evidenced in the aftermath of Zimbabwe’s 2018 harmonized elections and Malawi’s 2019 general elections. Subsequently, shrinking civic space translates into rampant violations of citizens’ rights as citizens’ voices are suppressed.
The main thrust of the Summit is hinged upon the belief that it is the duty of every citizen of the SADC region to play their citizenship role and contribute to the development of the region by ensuring that the governments are making people centered and pro-poor policies that work for all. Despite the various initiatives undertaken by the regional leaders both at regional and national levels, it is critical for the people of Southern Africa to take into cognisance that they need to play their role in redressing the challenges they are faced with. This reminds one of the famous English adage, “God helps those who help themselves. This motto emphasizes the importance of self-initiatives and agency. This is what is needed if SADC is to be emancipated in all facets of life.