The Southern African Development Community leaders have come under intensive attack from regional civil society organizations for what they say its failure to put the welfare of poor people at the center of their discussions.
Coordinator for the People’s Dialogue, Dumezweni Dlamini said in an exclusive interview that the problem is that the heads of state take such summits as merrymaking events sweeping issues poverty and democracy under the carpet.
“SADC summits have been looked at as one of those Christmases for the heads of state where they say ‘let us come and dine and wine’ and not to attack each other. We have never heard any of these heads of state taking on teacher other as to asking saying ‘why are you conducting yourself in this manner while as a region we uphold the principles of democracy, why the outcry in Zimbabwe,” he says.
Dlamini who comes from Swaziland says the SADC leaders are only good at signing declarations after declarations but with no actions.
“In fact we have been seeing much more exclusion of the people on the ground in terms of addressing those issues and it tells us to the point that it is sometimes useless to sign those declarations,” he says.
He says the heads of state consider including people in whatever they do saying no matter minor those people may look they still talk something that affects them therefore it is important that those voices are heard.
“When you talk about the GDP per capita of these countries like where I come from in Swaziland, it says most of the people there are living above a dollar day. But what happens to those people, who are living far below? They are not considered when it comes to that equation. Which means that the GDP per capita in this region does not reflect what is on the ground,” he says.
A board member of the Eastern and Southern African Small Scale Farmer’s Forum Grace Tepula from Zambia says the problem with SADC governments is that they take more care on the people from developed countries who come into the country ‘to deplete our resources’ in terms of investments.
“So our concern from our experience as a rural farmers are the challenges we get like land grabbing , lack of water, the indigenous seed that are being moved away replaced by other seeds that are being introduced on the market in our countries and in the region as a whole,” she says.
Tepula who is also a member of Rural Women Assembly a member says rural farmers need to have seeds that they have been using unlike imposing seeds on them which she says do not last long.
“Another worrying issue is that our ancestral lands are being given to multinational companies because they want to mine forgetting that we are the people who are contributing to the food basket in the region, for our families and our neighbors,” she says.
Collins Magalasi a social commentator in Malawi is also accusing SADC of failing to act of issues affecting ordinary people.
“We have seen SADC becoming a club of the rich, when it is supposed to be a club of the people. SADC needs to bring people back into the discussion issues that affecting people. So if you are talking about whether it is elections or the lake or whatever the issue is has to be where we see the common person,” he says.
But speaking during the official opening of the summit, new chairperson President Joyce Banda of Malawi says that she will strive to put issues of poor people at heart during her tenure.
“No discussion about the poor without the poor. No meetings about the poor without the poor. And so passing of declarations about the poor without the poor,” she said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :