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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Open Letter to SADC Leaders,

Dear SADC Leaders,

We the social movements, progressive groups, and the civil society at large united under the banner of the Southern African People Solidarity Network (SAPSN) write this open letter to you to express our deepest concern at the intolerable mass suffering of our people.

The COVID pandemic crisis has made an already difficult situation worse for the Region’s masses. More than 40 million SADC citizens in 13 countries are going hungry. At least four out of every ten SADC citizens do not have access to safe drinking water. Six out of ten citizens in our region cannot access adequate sanitation services in spite of the life-threatening dangers of Covid-19. Overwhelmed public education systems have left the majority of the Region’s children out of school for months on end leaving many vulnerable children especially young girls exposed to sexual violence and abuse. Increased burdens on frail public health systems and demotivated health professionals puts the lives of millions at risk every single day. The imposition of austerity measures and cutbacks to public service delivery disproportionately affects the poor while local elites live in the fluff of luxury. This tells us that Inequality is fundamentally a result of political choices.

Policy choices to deregulate our economies, privatise public goods and services, provide generous and harmful incentives to transnational capital, accrue bad debts and weaken democratic oversight have left most countries in the region unprepared to address major crises, shocks and disruptions.

We must remind you, that the burden of care left by underfunded, unpredictable and under-staffed public service delivery systems unjustly falls on the shoulders of struggling women and the household care economy. Most of these women and households draw their livelihoods from the informal economy and small holder agriculture. As such, it pains us that whilst transnational, agrarian, speculative and extractive capital continues operations with limited disruption, Cross boarder traders, smallholder farmers, vendors and the working poor are losing income due to boarder closures and restrictive lockdown regulations which unfairly target and at times criminalises the informal economy. How do you expect these people to earn a living and survive when they cannot trade freely?

We shudder as our debt distressed governments continue to funnel scarce public resources to service debts without clear debt sustainability plans at a time when our children are hungry, young people are without jobs and the elderly and vulnerable lack adequate care or social protection. 

Again, we are enraged by the wholesale pillaging of our natural resources, public tenders and economic opportunities to enrich elites through corruption and Illicit Financial Flows in the name of private sector led development. Leaders, you must not renege on your duty to protect, promote and fulfil the fundamental human rights your citizens and leave our collective future in the hands of predatory capital and vested interests.

Growing insecurity in the region as evidenced by the unresolved military conflicts in Eastern DRC and Northern Mozambique as well as declining democratic conditions in several countries expose the illusion of peace in the Region. And now as some leaders amass emergency powers without clear checks and balances or timeframes to restore constitutional order, we strongly urge the reinvigoration of Regional monitoring and accountability mechanisms to guide the use of emergency powers during crisis periods and a stop to the weaponization of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We had hoped that you would take the opportunity of the recent SADC Heads of State Summit to announce a people centred post-COVID response and recovery plan for the Region.  To our collective dismay, SADC has missed an opportunity to marshal the resources, ideas and political will to address the citizens’ suffering and hardships.

  • We therefore call upon you, as our Leaders, to help the masses cope with the COVID pandemic by increasing the resources available to shore up overwhelmed public health, education, social protection and other key public services through a coordinated SADC COVID Response Fund. 
  • Secondly, we urge you to recover our sovereignty to decide our own shared future by reversing the unaccountable power, benefits, access and influence given to vested interests, foreign and domestic lenders, investors and donors. Instead we ask you to prioritise income guarantees, inclusive financing and other support measures to mitigate the loss of income and livelihood opportunities for Cross-boarder Traders, smallholder food producers and workers in the informal sector.
  • Thirdly we ask that you listen more to Citizens by facilitating the structured inclusion of representative Non-State Actors in regional disaster-risk preparedness and response mechanisms.
  • Again, we ask you to address growing insecurity in the Region by resolving the underlying causes of conflict in the region embedded in unaddressed historical conflicts and the unfair distribution of natural resources and economic opportunities.
  • Lastly, we urge you to break the cycle of indebtedness by strengthening oversight, accountability and transparency in loan contraction and debt management through effective common Regional frameworks to guide engagements with multi-lateral and private lending Institutions.

We await to hear how you plan to deal with the issues and questions raised in this letter even as we look forward to contribute to people centred post-COVID response and recovery plans.

Another Southern Africa is possible,

Janet Zhou
Secretary General
Southern African People’s Solidarity Network

Boaventura Monjane
Convenor, SADC People’s Summit 2020
Mozambique Civil Society Alliance

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