Civil society organisations have lashed out at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for leaving them out of key SADC issues that concern the region.
A gathering of civil society and non-governmental organisations in Gaborone last week heard how SADC has sidelined them by focusing on the political agenda.
The gathering was the 2012 National Feedback meeting held after the 8th SADC Civil Society Forum, which took place in the Mozambican capital, Maputo, three months ago under the them ‘The SADC we want’.
Civil society representatives expressed dismay that no single official from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning turned up to represent government at the meeting.
Instead, the ministry only availed copies of the SADC Final Communiqu├® of the 32nd Summit of the heads of state and government, held in Maputo in August.
Along with that, the ministry offered the Back to Office report of the SADC heads of state and government summit.
This feedback meeting was a platform to give recommendations, resolutions and a way forward after what transpired at the Maputo Forum. It was also a meeting to address issues affecting civil societies and how they can strategise in their liaison with SADC.
HIV/AIDS activist David Ngele from Country Networks, who was among the attendees, raised the concern that SADC takes civil societies for granted.
“Country Networks and Botswana Network of AIDS Service Organisation (BONASO) once sent a declaration for the recognition of Country Networks to Ministers at the 03, June 2003 SADC Summit in Lesotho. However, the Ministers were not welcoming our proposal, delaying the process. This shows how SADC takes Civil Societies lightly,” said Ngele.
He said after much delay and struggle, they were then allowed to pass the declaration to the heads of state. He said this was not smooth sailing for them as it had to take three years for SADC to absorb them. He said they were now a recognized organization by SADC after long frustration.
Ngele further advised the civil society organisations that they should have one Council representing them at SADC, giving them a collective voice.
The Botswana Church Council (BCC) and Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa (FCCSA) member, Reverend Mosweu Simane, said in order for civil societies to be included and taken seriously by SADC, they should be more organised. He further said there is a need to teach ordinary citizens about SADC. In that way, he said, they will be taking SADC to the people.
The Forum feedback meeting was coordinated by Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisation (BOCONGO) in collaboration with Botswana Council of Churches and Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU). Other concerns raised about the problems affecting the SADC region were unbearable climate changes, high rate of poverty, high HIV/AIDS prevalence and economic crises.