President Joyce Banda today assumed the chairmanship of the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) with a call to the regional bloc to be more people centred and endearvour to serve millions of poor people who are suffering in the region.
“As chair of this great community, I hope to drive initiatives that bring Sadc closer to the people for whom it works; a people centred Sadc. In short – a Sadc for the people and by the people,” said Banda in his acceptance speech soon after Mozambican Armando Gueburza.
She said as Sadc leaders gather each year to discuss ways of addressing problems that confront the people of the region, they also must know that the expectations of the people were high and as new chair she also feel the weight of such expectations.
He said among several challenges in the region include millions of young people facing a daily struggle to survive and find jobs, million failing to go to school, youths failing to secure employable skills while women and men struggle in poverty, deprivation and underdevelopment.
She also said millions more are hungry for food, die from preventable diseases while women die giving birth and are raped in their homes and communities and suffer violence at home, at school, and in their communities.
Added President Banda: “Many of them have lost their dignity, through no fault of their own. These are the Sadc citizens who pay taxes. These are Sadc citizens who vote. These are our citizens and our neighbours. They work for us and we work for them.
“And yet, when they hear our voices and observe our actions, they see that in reality, sometimes we do not always work for them. Our actions suggest that the poor should care for the poor.”
She told the gathering that she strongly believe that to achieve durable and long-lasting peace and stability in Sadc countries, the fight should start with poverty.
“We must fight the war to end the contemporary, deliberate and savage violence of poverty and underdevelopment of our people, particularly those in our rural communities. To win this war, we must encourage political tolerance and the rule of law,” she said.
She also said that there was need for promotion of inclusive politics in the region while taking everybody including the poor, the youth and women on board.
“I wish to ask of you that we work to ensure that the poor play a role, not merely as recipients of charity and goodwill, but as co-determinants of what happens in the common community in which we all live. As I have said nothing about the poor without them,” said President Banda.
The Sadc Heads of State Summit was opened yesterday and expected to close today.
“The essential question we have to answer at this Summit is whether we have the courage and the conscience to demonstrate our will to ensure that we will permit no situation that denies any member of our community their dignity?” said President Banda.
Apart from the 14 heads of State the opening ceremony was also graced the AU Chairperson Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma, Malawi former President Bakili Muluzi, Malawi’s Leader of Opposition in Parliament John Tembo.
Before the handing over of the ceremony there was a prize giving ceremony to winner of Secondary School Essay competition and the Sadc Media Awards where Malawi’s Vincent Khonyongwa of Malawi Broadcasting Cooperation came top in the Radio journalist category.
Before the summit started concerned citizens who were marching to the venue of the Summit to present a petition to the gathering leaders under the Southern African People’s Summit Network (SAPSN) had to be stopped almost a kilometre away where they were followed by Sadc officials to get the petition.
The petition which was after a People’s Summit held on Friday was presented by the SAPSN Secretary General Daliso Kubalasa of Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) and was received by Sadc Director of the Organ on Politics, Defence, Security Cooperatin Tank Mothae and Director of International Cooperation in Malawi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Charles Kambauwa.
Among some of the issues raised in the petition is the disputed elections in Zimambwe which members of the grouping wants the leaders to have on the agenda.
CAPTION: JB: We must fight the war to end the contemporary, deliberate and savage violence of poverty