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’Alternative’ SADC summit on the sidelines

Namibian, Namibia

’Alternative’ SADC Summit On the Sidelines

By Tileni Mongudhi

16 August 2010

While SADC heads of state and government meet in Windhoek this week, civil society organisations from the region are also holding a two-day meeting in Windhoek called ’The SADC People’s Summit’.

The two-day event started yesterday and is organised by the Southern African People’s Solidarity Network (SAPSN).

Their theme is ’Reclaiming and Reuniting SADC for People’s Social and Economic Rights’ and they are mainly advocating for SADC governments not to sign economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with the European Union (EU).

According to SAPSN secretary general Dakarayi Matanga, the trade agreement will only disadvantage local businesses and economies because they won’t be protected against the giants from Europe.

He added that the EPA would exploit SADC countries to open the floodgates for the European businesses to move in.

Sofonea Shale, representing a Lesotho NGO, Development for Peace Education, said that some governments needed to be "disciplined", since they had signed interim EPAs.

He said Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana should be asked to revisit their decision to sign the interim EPAs. The other country that signed is Mozambique.

South Africa, Angola and Namibia have not yet signed the interim EPAs, although Namibia has initialled it. The EPA cannot take effect until all SADC countries sign it.

"We want to seek alternatives to government-run neo-liberal policies and propose pro-people alternatives," Matanga said, adding that their aim was to lobby alternative policies that would benefit ordinary people of the region.

SAPSN’s aim is to lobby for the socio-economic rights of SADC citizens. Matanga added that the right to education, healthcare and employment are some of the key areas SAPSN is trying to improve in the region.

When the summit ends today, it will issue a joint deceleration that will be handed over to the SADC heads of state.

Matanga said SAPSN did the same during the SADC summit in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), last year.