SOUTHERN Africa civil society organisations (CSOs) have challenged incoming Southern African Development Community (Sadc) chairperson, President Robert Mugabe, to push for transparency and accountability that would result in citizens benefiting from natural resources in their countries.
In an interview, Sadc Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) president Paul Juru said it was imperative for Mugabe to establish cordial relations with CSOs across Sadc as a way of complementing efforts aimed at improving the welfare of the general populace.
Mugabe takes over the chairmanship of the regional bloc at the 34th Sadc Heads of State Summit in Victoria Falls which starts today.
“As Sadc Council of NGOs, we welcome Zimbabwe taking over the chairmanship of Sadc and we expect Zimbabwe as a powerhouse within the Sadc region to really push the Sadc agenda forward and see to it that the aims and aspirations of Sadc are implemented for the benefit of all people. Our major expectation is that we have cordial relations where we complement each other and work especially towards the people’s economic and social development,” Juru said.
Over the last years, Zanu PF has had an uneasy working relationship with NGOs accusing them of pursuing a regime change agenda.
Juru said it was disheartening that many people from the Sadc region were flocking to European countries in search of greener pastures yet the region was endowed with vast natural resources that had the potential to improve economies and people’s welfare.
“The people should benefit from efforts of the government and civil society. All political machinations as well as civil society machinations should bring peace and development to our people. The people should benefit because they are at the forefront of all the activities that we are doing.”
He said it was equally important for Sadc countries to implement the process of beneficiation so as to derive maximum benefit from their natural resources.
Lack of accountability has been cited as one of the reasons behind some African states’ failure to ensure citizens benefit from natural resources in their countries with Zimbabwe being no exception.
Zimbabwe’s diamond deals have been shrouded in secrecy amid claims of corruption by the political elite.
Meanwhile, human rights organisations in the country have challenged Sadc to thrash out the issue of human rights violations within its member states as part of measures to entrench democratic values and improve the lot of its people.
During a joint Press conference held in Harare yesterday, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) expressed concern about laxity on human rights in Sadc member states.
“Sadc should strive to create conditions for all to enjoy their economic, social, civil, and political rights. Sadc leadership must respond to the real needs of ordinary people and vigorously implement regional and international human rights standards,” AI director Deprose Muchena said.
HRW Southern Africa director Tiseke Kasambala said in the absence of good governance systems and the respect for human rights, regional economic development would remain a pipe dream.
ZLHR projects manager Dzimbabwe Chimbga said Zimbabwe needed to retrace its steps to the early post-independence era during which it crafted and implemented people-driven policies.