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Reflections on the SADC People’s Summit as a People’s Process

After every SADC People’s Summit there is a hope and an excitement that is reignited in the activist within me. This year’s SADC People’s Summit made me reflect on the process and left me deeply convinced and convicted that efforts should be sustained to maintain and continuously reinvigorate the people’s space.

Since 2014, the 2017 SADC Summit which was held in South Africa at the Constitutional Hill ( a very politically significant venue) particularly showcased that this space is indeed a reflection of how the unity in diversity during the liberation of this region brought about political independence. The diversity of the social movements who participated and offered each other solidarity cannot be betrayed by any one of us, the ordinary citizens of the SADC region.

The uniqueness of this space lies in that it is not one of those conferences where people’s livelihoods are mystified and “hidden” in books, research papers, policy briefs and PowerPoint presentations. The People’s Summit fires “live ammunition” at the predatory system perpetuated by neo-liberalism, neo colonialism presented in the SADC countries in various forms. This live ammunition is the sharing of the lived experiences of the people themselves. They “fire” as it is and the power of such “arms” of the struggle can never be defeated.

The SADC People’s Summit is an opportunity which should never be lost to remobilise the citizens of this region who were demobilised by the assumption that the liberation struggle was over after the political liberation struggles in the region. It is an opportunity for the social movements in the region and the “friends” of the region, just as it was back in the day to sustain pressure, offer solidarity and liberate all those that are “furthest behind” in the development realm in the region.

In order to sustain the people’s struggles, the organisers and participants of the SADC People’s Summit should never take their alternative space for granted but should instead harness the capacities and the unity forged by the strikingly similar struggles by the various social movements in the region. In my reflections of the people’s space and struggles by focusing on the following issues:

  • Supporting the national “bases” in this struggle. People are coming to the People’s Summit with serious issues and struggles that they are fighting at a national level that can never be won without getting regional support just as it was during the fight against colonialism, hence the principle of “An injury to one is an injury to all” should be unapologetically implemented through following up on national processes that promote civil, political, social and economic liberties. Laying down the pathway for supporting “national bases” will also ensure that the People’s Summit extends from being an event to being a people’s process that can deliver.
  • Consolidate its nature of being an alternative space where the people sharpen each other’s ammunition and unleash the arms of the struggle (lived experiences) at the capital and its complicities who are the SADC Heads of State and governments. The importance of the coming together of the different social movement grouping within this organised space is encouraging and should be supported for the people’s solidarity that the People’s Summit represents.
  • The transformational process of the People’s Summit should be located within a modus operandi and modus vivendi (noting the diversity) that releases the capacities of the people to engage with the SADC institutions and foster region-wide resistance of oppression from the national “bases” through to the regional processes which offer retreat, reflection and solidarity space in the form of the SADC People Summit. This alternative space should have clear messages entrenched in ideological convictions that will ensure that no one is left behind in the economic independence of this region.

As the people of the SADC Region continue to converge at the People’s Summits and keep on reflecting they should never forget that the armed struggles for the political independence of this region were sustained by the peoples of this region who sacrificed and offered solidarity beyond borders. In the same vein the struggle for economic independence shall be won by the people who carry their “arms” of the struggle which is their voices and converge beyond boarders under the people’s spaces and harness the power of numbers and experiences to attain social and economic justice.

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