Southern African opposition parties need to form a shadow SADC to represent oppressed masses!

It has now become an open secret that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is nothing more than a leaders' club, which seeks to serve and protect the interests of those in power, at the expense of the suffering ordinary people - and as such, there is need for an 'alternative', whose collective voice can be heard by the international community.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

As long as the regions’ leaders stand together against a divided and disorganised people, there can never be any hope that the lot of the suffering Southern Africans will ever be resolved.

The world has helplessly witnessed countless conflicts, terrorist activities, a genocide, brutal repression of dissenting voices, and fraudulent elections – as they have placed unwarranted and undeserved faith in SADC to take immediate remedial action.

However, true to nature, this organization has merely paid lip-service to these problems – resulting in the continued suffering of the people of the region – whilst these leaders lavishly enjoy the ill-gotten fruits of their repression and corruption.

How many lives could have been saved in the region had there been an effective SADC?

If SADC had seriously intervened in the Zimbabwean crisis as far back as 1982 – when it became clear that the ZANU PF government was bent on massacring the Ndebele people of that country – would over 20,000 innocent souls have been killed?

Hundreds more lives could have been saved had the same body swiftly intervened before the disputed and violent 2008 presidential elections – when it became apparent that the Robert Gabriel Mugabe ZANU PF regime was intent on staying in power by any means necessary, and was baying for blood – especially, following the ruthless tyrant’s embarrassing defeat at the hands of the opposition’s Morgan Richard Tsvangirai.

Similarly, so far, nearly 4,000 civilians have been killed in the terrorist conflict in Mozambique, which began in October 2017, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Date Project (ACLED) – on top of over 856,000 displaced, more than half of which being children (UNICEF).

Where was SADC when this war was clearly brewing – since this was seen coming, based on numerous intelligence reports, as well as the undeniable severe impoverishment Mozambicans in the north of the country, who were bound to easily be roped into some form of rebellion?

Did the region’s body have to wait till thousands had been butchered before running around, without any discernable success, to cobble together a military force – a feat they were humiliatingly beaten to by the Rwanda government?

I will not even go into the one million dead, and over 5 million displaced during the 1977 to 1992 RENAMO insurgency – as SADC was established in 1980, what did they do to put an end to this devastation?

As I write this OpEd, the small country of Eswatini (formerly, Swaziland) has been embroiled in endless, oftentimes violent, protests – resulting in the needless loss of life – since June 2021, when the country’s citizens rose up against the malicious authoritarian rule of King Mswati III, the last absolute monarchy.

In Lesotho, there have been two successful coup d’etat, and another two being unsuccessful – which saw the removal from power of Chief Leabua Jonathan in 1986 by the military, and the same fate befalling his successor, General Justin Lekhanya in 1991…talk of those who live by the sword!

Our own Zimbabwe is on the brink of a disaster, as the suffering people are angry due to perennial gross mismanagement of the economy by the ZANU PF regime, and the grand looting of the country’s resources – with citizens’ attempts to exercise their constitutionally-enshrined right to peacefully protest being met by menacing threats of brute force by state security forces.

Their demands for meaningful electoral reforms are being ignored by the government, except for a few piecemeal changes that do not improve much – a situation that will inevitably result in another contested election in 2023, that will surely aggravate the already tense situation.

In spite of this potential implosion in Zimbabwe, SADC is apathetic to the whole situation.

As happened in Zimbabwe in 2008 – when then South Africa president Thabo Mbeki disingenuously and infamously declared that there was no crisis in the country – this shameful useless body will wait until people start being killed, for them to act, yet the crisis would have been apparent several years before.

The repressed and suffering people of the Southern African region can not afford to wait anymore by placing their faith in a body that has clearly failed them, and has absolutely no interest in their wellbeing.

In fact, had there been an alternative – and it is an idea worth pondering – Southern African people would have clamoured for a massive SADexit – a collective exit from this anti-people organization.

However, the most practical solution, for the time being, would be for all opposition parties to establish a shadow SADC – which would seek legitimacy from the international community, and whose voice would be taken seriously at such fora as the United Nations (UN).

I do not think this idea is outlandish nor too idealistic, as already the idea of shadow cabinet ministers is accepted in most democratic countries, and their voices taken seriously.

Similarly, during the liberation struggles of countries, mainly in the Southern African region, liberation movements came together in what was termed the ‘authentic’ group.

Let us remember that, liberation movements of that time were not in power yet, and were effectively opposition parties – albeit, most times, illegally, since they were banned in their respective countries.

In late January 1969, leaders of seven liberation movements met in Khartoum, Sudan, at a conference to bring them to work together.

These movements were the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo), Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), South West People’s Organization (SWAPO), African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa, Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), PAIGG of Guinea and Cape Verde, and MOLINACO of the Comoros.

These groups became partners, called “the natural allies”, and were the ‘authentic’ liberation movements of Africa – guided and united by a genuine desire for independence, and their struggle against colonialism and neo-colonialism, imperialism and exploitation of man by man.

They were opposed to tribalism, regionalism, divisionism and racialism, insisting that the enemy was not necessarily white – but, the repressive and segregatory system.

These movements were able to act and speak with a stronger voice for the subjugated people of Africa, as well as secure resources as a united front.

This unity enabled the more effective conducting of the liberation struggles of these countries, since no single movement stood alone as an island, but had the backing of the others.

Such a strong voice brought the struggle of the African people into the limelight, and drew the attention of international bodies, thereby placing more weight on these struggles.

The same approach can be adopted by current opposition parties, who – similar to the 1960s – are today’s liberation movements.

Admittedly, not all opposition parties in the region serve the interests of the people, but discretion can always be used in determining who becomes part of this shadow SADC – however, every effort should be put in making sure that all Southern African countries are represented on the body.

The people of this region have suffered a great deal, without any respite in sight, whilst those in power plan and scheme on how to hold on to their privileges – with scant regard of the ordinary citizenry’s harrowing plight.

We need a stronger and more united Southern African voice to genuinely stand up for our rights – and it is time that the opposition stepped in and boldly represented the interests of the people of this region, against a leadership that has abandoned them.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

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