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Youth Participation and Demands at the 2017 SADC People Summit

I have had the privilege of  actively participating at the SAPSN organised SADC People Summit which is a space for social movements in the SADC region held parallel to the SADC Heads of State and Government Summit since 2006 and I have seen it take various forms in terms of levels of activism and participation by the marginalised peoples of the SADC region.

The 2017 SADC People Summit held in South Africa at the Constitutional Hill gave me hope and I believe it was the same for many social and economic justice activists in the region. The masses who participated showed that the people are ready and geared once again to reclaim SADC through people to people solidarity and address their issues head on.  Participants from all walk of life and drawn from 13 SADC countries shared heart renting experiences, particularly the DRC plea for solidarity on women who are tortured, rape and killed on a daily basis touched my heart.  I asked myself when the people of the SADC region will mobilise once again and defy the demobilisation dispensation that the current ruling elite made the people to embrace. Mining communities shared their stories, so did the youths, women, farmers and health activists amongst others. The voice for solidarity was loud and clear. One thing was clear from the experiences that were shared that is; only the people of the SADC themselves can confront the vagaries of the capitalist and predatory state that sweeps across the whole region.

During the People Summit, I particularly invested my energy in the regional debates co-hosted by ZIMCODD and TJNA where 8 SADC countries were represented by vibrant and resolute tertiary students who debated on 4 critical policy topics that covered; natural resources governance, climate change, trade, social service delivery, tax justice and human rights. The building of the critical mass around the youths is undeniable. From the debates the youths made 4 demands to the SADC Heads of State and government which were included in the SADC People Summit Declaration as follows,

  • We demand the operationalization of the SADC National Institutions for the youths and citizens to be able to participate in the SADC processes;
  • We acknowledge that youth comprises the bulk of the population; We therefore demand that SADC governments should earmark resources from the extractives sector targeted at youth development programmes;
  • We acknowledge the role of taxation as a means of implementing development programmes such as the SDGs and Africa’s Agenda 2063. We therefore demand for SADC governments to urgently implement measures that address tax leakages through illicit financial flows practices such as tax evasion, tax avoidance and rampant corruption perpetrated by the ruling elite in most SADC countries
  • We reject the privatisation agenda being pushed for by SADC governments as reflected in their 2017 SADC Heads of State and Government theme in their quest for promoting industrialisation and investments in the region. Privatisation has never worked and will never work for the masses!

These demands are deeper, broader and require massive investment to unlock the potential of the youths and create opportunities for sustainable development that respect and transcend generations. The debates did not only provide an opportunity for the youths to interrogate critical policy discourses but they were also a networking opportunity which brought issues closer to home and the “ burning fire” that was ignited by the various experts who responded on the debated topics require national support structures for mobilisation that can continuously feed in to regional processes.

It is imperative to unpack the demands made by the youths and make them actionable at all fronts from the national levels through to the SADC level. In the upcoming write ups I will share on each of these demands and share on how solidarity can be built and push for the SADC to respond to these issues and once again rebuild a people centred SADC where the people themselves can sustain the economic liberation struggle.

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