Southern African People’s Solidarity Network has challenged Sadc leaders to embrace tenets of rule of law as lack of it worsens corruption, poverty and conflicts in the region.
Karonga Catholic Diocese Bishop Martin Mtumbuka, speaking in his capacity as Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) board chairperson—an organisation that has convened the People’s Meeting—said this during the opening of their summit being held under the theme Elevate Justice and Equality.
The summit is a side event at the 41st Ordinary Summit of Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Heads of State and Government.
Mtumbuka said the lack of rule of law in Sadc countries is amplifying inequalities to the effect that the rich are getting richer through corrupt means while the poor are getting poorer and have no voice.
He emphasised that rule of law is a sure remedy to most of the challenges facing the region.
Said Mtumbuka: “The real culprit that is keeping us poor in the region is a lack of rule of law. We have countries in the region, including Malawi, that have all necessary natural resources but we keep fighting and only few people are getting rich because rule of law is bent.”
In his message to the incoming Sadc chairperson President Lazarus Chakwera, he urged the Malawi leader to lead by example by showing that Malawi enforces the rule of law.
“He should really be seen to be strong, but if he is soft by only targeting weak persons, things will not change because people will notice his weaknesses on the rule of law,” Mtumbuka said.
In her remarks, presidential adviser on non-governmental organisations Martha Kwataine described the People’s Summit as critical to governance.
She said: “Right now there are issues bordering on Eswatini on how people are being killed simply for demanding democracy so by coming together, the People’s Summit puts issues together for heads of State to address.”
On his part, Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network representative Mary Pais Da Silva said most of the countries in the region are facing serious challenges around democracy and human rights.
She said human rights defenders also face a common threat to digital security where the State monitors the work of civil society and make it difficult for them to continue with their work.
“As President Chakwera [has] assumed the Sadc chairmanship, he should take a big stand on human rights violations across the region, especially in Swaziland and Mozambique,” said Da Silva.
The summit’s discussions will centre on five thematic areas; corruption and good governance, human rights, peace and security, climate change, natural resources and environment, trade, industry and economic governance, and gender and social protection.
The civil society organisations today are expected to deliver a petition of issues to Sadc leaders.