Civil society organisations (CSOs) have punched holes into Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) blocs, saying the benefit Malawians are benefitting less from their membership.
Representatives of the concerned CSOs—National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust, Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) and Young Politicians Union (YPU) — made the remarks at a public debate held in Lilongwe on Friday night.
The debate was organised by Nice under the theme Challenges and Opportunities for the Youth of Malawi in Sadc.
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Nice-Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) partnership officer, Stella Kalengamaliro, observed that there is still a long way for Malawi to start benefitting from Sadc and Comesa membership.
She cited xenophobia, sovereignty, nationalism and information gap as some of the challenges Malawians are facing in actualising Sadc and Comesa objectives such as regional trade and economic integration.
Kalengamaliro also observed that duty-bearers have been slow in sensitising masses how best they can utilise the available protocols to the best of their socio-economic interests.
She further said this is evidenced in arbitrary arrests of small-scale traders in neighbouring countries such as Zambia, Mozambique and Zambia.
“To say the least, citizens have not been empowered enough to tap from the Sadc and Comesa membership,” said Kalengamaliro.
She was, however, quick to emphasise that through the Nice-GIZ-Progress Project, they have partnered to raise awareness on the need to embrace the spirit, values and principles of regional economic integration.
HRCC chairperson Robert Mkwezalamba feared that cases of arbitrary arrests of small-scale traders going into Malawi or going to countries such as Zambia, have the potential to sabotage the objectives and goals of the regional blocs.
In his remarks, MHRC commissioner Benedicto Kondowe said his organisation is concerned that Malawians are still failing to enjoy the fruits of being members of a number of blocs years after ratifying them.
He called upon government to put in place deliberate measures to ensure trade and economic protocols and treaties do not remain paperwork, but translate into action for the sake of the ordinary Malawian. n