The People’s Dialogue brought together rural activists, mining activists, women’s movements and small-scale farmers from around the region on the 13 and 14 August to analyse the multi-dimensional global crisis and the response by our governments. It is evident that the governments’ of the region are continuously favouring corporate and investors’ interest over the people and the environment.
Key areas discussed at the meeting were on food sovereignty, the extractive industry, energy and mega projects, land and water grabs, ecological justice and alternative religionalism. But more importantly participants deliberated on alternatives to the dominant capitalist model that keeps this region locked into natural resource exploitation dependency for export led economic growth. The analysis, problems, demands and actions were fed into the Southern African People’s Solidarity Network (SAPSN), which took place on the 15 and 16 August in Momemo Centre, Maracuence District, Maputo under theme “Reclaiming SADC for People’s Development – A People’s SADC Myth or Reality? Social Movements activists, civil society organisations came from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Swaziland, Lesotho, DRC and Mozambique.
From the analysis, the deepening global crisis and increasing power of corporations over governments and community leaders as well as our leaders operating in cahoots with multinational corporations (TNCs), international governments and multi-lateral institutions arose as major concerns.
At this SADC Heads of State summit Regional Infrastructure Development Master plan will be consider- the main elements of the plan is based on unfolding mega-projects linked to key sectors- energy (electricity); transport including maritime corridors; water, infrastructure; information communication technologies; tourism.
Some these of the projects in the pipeline include: Kazungula Bridge linking Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, power transmission (ZiZaBoNa) Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, the Benguela railway line through Angola and Zambia and more big dam projects. The SADC’s mega projects master plan will be driven by the SADC Ministers for Finance and Investment with the intention to establish a SADC Development Fund. Presenters questioned the priorities of SADC and condemned the huge investment in these projects while the majority of people do not have access to land, water, education and proper health services in the region. These projects are anything but for the people and will benefit expansion of trade and services of corporations.
João Pereira, Civil Society Support Mechanism of Mozambique questioned why movements have not put pressure on governments to prioritise the social needs of people. He pointed out that movements are weak and a major hurdle to create alternatives is the politicisation amongst people that are affected. He proposed the need to confront our leaders, develop a plan to politicise people everywhere in rural areas, churches, the work place so that critical mass built to steer alternatives and policies that meet the needs of people not profits.
Ismael Ossemane, a founder member of UNAC also stressed that the oppressed need new strategies to confront the change of terrain of capitalist power and we should not repeat strategies of trying to get attention of government. He emphasised we are entrenched in this capitalist system which most people think is part of human nature and that a consumer society is normal. As activist, movements and drivers of change we at ‘’each time we need to see at what stage we are in our struggle and what challenges we face”. He underscored although colonisers are no longer in our countries but Southern Africa it is more exploited than ever before. Land grabs are prominent; our resources are plundered by northern and southern elites. Multi-nationals from the South are making the their mark in the region, operating in the same exploitative manner as their northern counterparts.
It was stressed that these issues can’t just be addressed at local or national level. If we are beginning to concentrate alternative regionalism of a power of alternatives, it is not about how government but about how we respond to recover our power.
Therefore an alternative regionalism must be about uniting people and overcoming the current state of globalisation, building stronger resistance, confronting our leaders and holding them accountable.By Michelle Pressend