People’s Dialogue, Rural Women’s Assembly, Via Campesina Africa and World March of Women
Gaborone, 13 August 2015 – Hundreds of people from social movements and grassroots organizations from the Southern Africa countries have left their homes to join a caravan towards Gaborone, Botswana. They seek to build people’s voices at the alternative SADC People’s Summit that is taking place from 14 to 16 August, this week in Botswana when the SADC Heads of States hold their regular annual summit.
Caravans of people, including small-scale farmers, farm workers, mining impacted communities, rural women and social activists from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and other countries will join Tswana grassroots organizations and activists in Gaborone for a people to people dialogue and solidarity. The SADC people will continue to demand social and economic justice, based on the people´s perspectives, putting people’s interests first, not those of corporates.
By implementing neo-liberal economic policies, the Southern African region is facing ongoing challenges and deepening crisis. Elite and transnational corporations grab and control people´s basic means of production such as land, seeds and water. All national resources are increasingly being privatized due to a myriad of investment agreements our governments have entered into with corporations and western governments. In Mozambique, to give an example, peasants from the Northern Mozambique are under a serious threat as the government is giving away millions of hectares of fertile land for monoculture-based agriculture in the so-called ProSavana program.
We have decried not so long ago that the SADC region suffers from a food production deficit. We see greater levels of poverty and unemployment as result of the inappropriate export-led development models based on “dig-it-up” and “ship-it-out” extractivist model. Entire communities are displaced and our environment is being destroyed in the name of “progress and development”. An increased dumping of cheap imports from developed countries has elbowed out smallholder farmers from the markets, thus destroying their livelihoods.
“We, as smallholder farmers, need to develop our local markets based on the principles of food sovereignty and our governments should support such efforts. Only in this way, we can have adequate food and create employment opportunities for our children,” says Elizabeth Mpofu of ZIMSOFF the current Via Campesina General Coordinator.
The recent surge in xenophobia in South Africa is a clear message showing that the region has failed to address the issue of real integration of the people. This proves that the annual Heads of States Summit does not address the issue of people integration, education and values of solidarity and a common African identity within the region.
Although our leaders have shown little interests in addressing the people’s issues, we are determined to fight for peoples’ livelihoods, which will benefit the home market, agroecological food production and manufacturing industries. This will create jobs not only for the urbanites but also for the rural communities and allow an equitable development within the SADC countries. The SADC people need to be free to self determine their destiny in all spheres of life (social, political and economic). Even without the support of our Heads of State, we are determined to exercise that freedom. Spaces like the SADC People’s Summit give us confidence and hope that, if we are united, we can claim a better regionalism. Solidarity among ourselves is a cornerstone towards a better SADC with a real integration of people, mutual respect and where xenophobia has no place to exist. “We will continue to follow our government leaders at these Summits until they hear our voices and policies changed to favour us, the people not corporations. Even if this happens, we will still follow these meetings so that our leaders don’t relax and bend the rules. They should always know that we are watching them and are accountable to the people”, says Elizabeth Mpofu.
In Gaborone, social movements will discuss various issues, such as SADC without borders, defending our local and traditional seeds as we look at seed policy in the region, climate justice and financialisation of agriculture. These discussions will help build a consciousness within a broader constituency, which will be the locomotive of our struggle for popular sovereignty, popular livelihoods and popular democracy.
Mercia Andrews, from the Rural Women Assembly, said “This must be the last time that governments from the region can pretend that there is no civil society outside on the pavements! We want them to know that we know about the promises they make in the international arena and how they give more space and voice to TNCs – it’s always profits before people. But we say enough is enough! – The rural people are demanding subsidies and real support for agriculture, we are demanding security of tenure for women on land and we say no to land grabs and sale of land to mining houses that destroy our environment and our communities. We are also demanding climate justice, seed sovereignty and an end to ongoing underdevelopment of the region – Africa is not for sale!”
Graça Sama, Graça Samo, International Coordinator of the World March of Women, said “We, women from the SADC region resist everyday to the aggression perpetrated by the capitalist system, that takes away from us our lands, promotes the pillaging of our resources and the mercantilization of nature. We stand against the false solutions that the green economy presents as the only alternative to the climate and socio-economic crisis. We demand our right to participate in the public spaces and in the decision making processes. We will hold our governments accountable, because they must represent our interest as citizens of the SADC. It is time to build a SADC for the SADC peoples!! It is Urgent now!!
Contact for press
Mercia Andrews, Rural Women Assembly: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: +27823683429
Eva Moreno, International Secretariat World March of Women: email@example.com Cell: +258848144037
Elizabeth Mpofu, La Via Campesina Africa: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: +263772443716