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Mabane 16 August 2017
The Coordinating Assembly of Non-Governmental Organisations (CANGO) Governing Board’s Chairperson, Dumisani Mnisi has said SADC has much potential to lift millions out of poverty despite its numerous challenges. “SADC needs to work with SADC citizens to find solutions to many challenges confronting the sub region including poverty, weak economies, gender based violence, migration, xenophobia to mention a few,” Mnisi said of the recently concluded annual Southern African Development Community Civil Society Forum (SADC CSF).
Honoring an invitation, the umbrella body’s chairperson participated in the high level 13 th SADC CSF which was held at the Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa between the 13 th and 16 th August 2017 ahead of the upcoming 37 th SADC Annual Heads of State and Government summit which takes off in Pretoria.
The SADC CSF convened since 2005 by the Apex Alliance being the SADC Council of NGOs (SADC CNGO), Fellowship of Christian Council (FOCISSA) and the Southern Africa of Trade Union Coordinating Council (SATUCC) was concluded with reflections on strategies the civil society aimed to engage SADC leadership on mainly to extend the participation of citizens in political, economic and social issues of the region.
Mnisi said the Forum attracted over 250 delegates drawn within 15 SADC member states who came from civil society orgnisations including NGOs, churches, thematic groups such as those who focus on children, refugees, land issues, HIV and AIDS, the elderly and women to mention a few, on the trajectory to achieve “the SADC We Want.”
The SADC We Want is a broad-based civil society initiative demanding people- centred policies, inclusive regional governance and sustainable development throughout the Southern African Development Community (SADC).The campaign was borne out of a desire to reclaim SADC which civil society saw as an opportunity to appeal to the intergovernmental body which lacks mechanisms to facilitate SADC citizens’ participation in regional strategies and programmes aimed to achieve transformational goals.
In a show of regional solidarity and a massive vote, scores of people and civil society organisations appended their signatures for a prosperous, peaceful and integrated SADC.
Other aims were also for the unification of people across national borders and to appeal for a more transparent, accountable and open to participation of SADC citizens.
Last year, the separate 12 th SADC CSF was held at Ezulwini in the Kingdom of Swaziland to show cause and reinforce the campaign by and large. The one held in Johannesburg still recognised strides made in influencing decision- makers and SADC leaders to embrace the SADC We Want campaign. It was a day of reckoning when leaders of the Apex Alliance; Reverend Dr. Kenneth Mtata, Chairperson of FOCCISA, Mr. Jules Hoareau, SADC CNGO President and Mr. Gadzani Mhotsha, SATUCC President; reflected on the journey from Ezulwini which then CANGO and partners hosted to the Johannesburg forum.
As the 13th Forum saw the SADC-led civil society appraising progress made, top of the reflections since last year, the SADC We Want campaign, an engagement framework, won delegates’ praise as an important mechanism through which there were imperative considerations taken by the SADC Council of Ministers.
The Council of Ministers which adopts strategic documents when engaged considered the proposal made through the campaign and identifies gaps that needed to be taken on board.
However, critical issues raised by the Ministers was that there is neither funding to finance the framework nor to set up a department or unit in the SADC Secretariat to see structured inclusion of people.
Hence the document has gone back to civil society for further reviews where it was unanimously agreed that civil society organisations at member states level should engage their respective governments on the framework in order to influence them and expedite the finalization of the issues raised as those of matters of urgency.
SADC CNGO Hosts side event on
State Capture and other corrupt practices
One of issues of concern for civil society was that of the state and national leaders’ capture, a narrative made popular by the former South African Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela who instructed President Jacob Zuma to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry into the capture of the sate.
This was before Madonsela’s finial deliverables in a form of a 355-page report titled “State of Capture” with main findings into allegations of improper influence by the wealth Gupta family over Zuma and his family.
It was on that basis that the SADC CNGO, a regional CANGO partner hosted a side event called “Confronting elite corruption and the death of the developmental state” where issues of corruption were discussed. The side event sought to generate a debate and discussion on issues emanating from national challenges in SADC particularly those that have rendered the nation state ineffective.
It was noted that corruption has reached unprecedented levels in SADC member states with reference made to the South African State capture narrative, underpinning the involvement of leadership in acts of corruption. There was a concern that corruption robs countries of scarce revenue. Delegates noted that the fact that in some countries children of heads of state were filthy rich kids who easily get favours and enjoy comfort solely because of their statuses was equal to corruption.
There was also a self-realization that corruption had to be rooted out even within the civil society sector where organisations encouraged each other to stamp out its roots through systematically toughening policies, disciplinary measures and embarking on condemnation campaigns other than protecting their own. Another issue that robs SADC member states’ resources is that of illicit financial flows.
It is estimated that over 300 billion US Dollars are lost through black financial dealings and off-shore banking, mugging countries of revenues meant for development.
The unfortunate part of this as raised by delegates is that these already scarce resources are diverted to wealthy oversees countries stifling development the region and countries are seriously in need of.
Some of the heavily challenged sectors include health, education and social protection targeting the poor which appear underfunded in many countries. On the side-turn, delegates rose that the strengthening of the financial tax which still sees revenue leaks because of weak regulatory and tax systems could enforce its attractiveness and generate citizens’ trust. Therefore, CSOs made a call to national governments to facilitate dialogues at country level to discuss issues on illicit financial flows.
The meeting also addressed other critical issues including elderly-focused social protection; education financing to cushion “fees must fall campaigns”; access to land; workers’ solidarity strengthening; mining; legal framework data- generation and; impacts of health, as well as the continental free trade area to facilitate Africa Intra Trade.
Other side events included:
The Forum also led to plenary discussions on Sectorial responses to regional development issues including: Children (CRANSA), Disability (SAFOD), Elderly (Help Age International), Gender and Development (Gender Protocol Alliance), Indigenous people (WIMSA), Informal Economy (Street Net) and, Youth (Southern African Youth Movement).
There were also eight parallel thematic cafeteria sessions discussing various issues of interest to civil society in the regions. Such issues included the following:
Emmanuel Ndlangamandla Executive Director CANGO Box A67 Swazi Plaza Plot no 419, JSM Matsebula Street Office tel +268 404 6586 firstname.lastname@example.org