SADC people’s summit implore member states to lobby for debt cancellation in the region

Delegates to the 2021 Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) People’s Summit, which ended Thursday in Malawi’s Capital Lilongwe, have implored SADC member states to lobby for the cancellation of what they call unsustainable sovereign debts, saying the debts have heavily burdened the livelihoods of the people in the region.

The call for debt cancellation is among a plethora of issues highlighted in a four paged strongly worded communique issued after the summit and read out to a press conference held in Lilongwe on Friday.

John Maketo (far right) reading the communique

The 2021 SADC People’s Summit was convened under the Southern Africa People’s Solidarity Network (SAPSN) at Crossroads Hotel in the Malawian Capital from the 17th-19th of August 2021, under the theme “Elevate Justice and Equality”.

Participants were drawn from grassroots movements, community based organizations, faith based organizations, women’s organizations, labour unions, student community, youth groups, civil society organizations, economic justice and human rights networks and other social movements in the region.

party to the press conference

Secretariat of SAPSN spokesperson, John Maketo, emphasized that the debt issue cuts across many other issues delegates raised during the summit.

Maketo, therefore, called upon SADC member states to listen to the plea of their people by swiftly negotiating with money lenders such as G8 countries and Bretton Woods institutions on the need to cancel debt in the region, a move he said would relieve governments to free up funds to provide social services.

“The debts that some SADC countries have actually exceeds the capacity of those countries to repay. And the situation has been made worse of late with natural disasters such as cyclone idai, droughts, climate change and the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic. Countries are still accumulating more debts in order to provide for their citizens and, at the time, servicing these debts,” said Maketo.

He observed that the natural disasters are not of SADC member states own making, hence the need for lending institutions to consider a plea for the cancellation of debts in the region.

“After all, it is the ordinary people that are suffering. Ordinary men, women and youths. Cancelling the debts, will, for instance, mean governments providing the social service delivery that is much needed and providing more funds to WASH services, to procurement of vaccines and to responding to the covid-19 pandemic effectively,” Maketo added.

Regional organizing committee member for SPASN, Dalitso Kubalasa, concurred with Maketo, adding that the call for the cancellation of debt in the SADC region should concern everyone including lenders.

“The call is in the interest of the citizens. SADC member states need to take that step and re-engage the lenders. It is a question of survival of the people and recovery and stabilization of economies in countries,” said Kubalasa.

About 170 people reportedly attended the 2021 SADC People’s Summit in Lilongwe physically while over 300 others attended virtually.

Other issues in the communique that require the SADC leaders urgent attention are: Human Rights, Governance, Peace and Security; Gender and Social Protection, Climate change, Natural Resources and Environment; Trade, Industry and Economic Justice.

Both Maketo and Kubalasa said they have faith in the new SADC Chairperson–Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera–that he would be able to influence fellow leaders of member states to act on some of these issues on time before the next SADC Heads of State and Government summit scheduled to take place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Apparently, Chakwera and his SADC counterparts met at the 41st SADC Heads of State and Government summit held in the Malawian Capital Lilongwe early this week, where he assumed the chairmanship of the organization.

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