Wednesday, September 11, 2013

SADC development should start with eliminating poverty - Joyce Banda
By Christopher Miti in Lilongwe, Malawi
Sun 18 Aug. 2013, 14:01 CAT

MALAWIAN President Joyce Banda says achieving economic development in the SADC region must start by winning the war against poverty. And Southern African Development Community delegates yesterday cheered Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe during introductions.

In her acceptance speech after taking over the SADC chairmanship from Mozambican President Armando Guebuza at the Bingu International Conference Centre yesterday, President Banda said many people in the region struggle to survive the condition of poverty.

She said the expectation of the people from the SADC region was very high.

"Millions of our young people in the region face severe troubles to survive. They do not have jobs, they don't go to school. Millions of our men and women struggle to survive the conditions of poverty and unemployment. They die from preventable diseases," President Banda said.

She said SADC must continue fighting the war against poverty and other vices that were affecting the people.

President Banda also appealed to SADC member countries to promote inclusive politics.

"We cannot afford to leave the poor to look after the poor. As chair of this great community, I would like to try initiatives that would bring SADC closer to the people for whom it works. In short we want a SADC for the people and of the people," President Banda said.

She said there was need for the region to move towards regional integration.

President Banda congratulated her predecessor for a wonderful performance during his tenure as chairman of SADC.

She said she would focus on agriculture development and agro industries during her tenure.

President Banda said it was time for SADC to focus on agriculture for economic development.

She also said she would complement the work of the outgoing chairman on developing corridors within the course of SADC regional integration.
President Banda said SADC had done very well in promoting women in leadership positions.

Earlier during introductions, delegates cheered President Mugabe when he was introduced at the beginning of the summit.

After discovering that delegates were cheering him, Mugabe stood and waved at them.

President Mugabe recently won the presidential election in Zimbabwe for another five-year term. The 89-year-old leader has been in power since 1980 when the country gained independence from Britain.

Zambia is being represented by Vice-President Dr Guy Scott, Dr Ngosa Simbyakula and Keith Mukata.

The summit is expected to come to an end today, with several SADC journalists, including this author, being awarded in different categories.

Meanwhile, the civil society in Zambia has petitioned SADC to table the issue of the just ended Zimbabwe elections during the on-going Lilongwe summit.

The civil society has also called for the commissioning of an independent election audit with a view of clearing alleged malpractices in the recently held general elections in Zimbabwe.

Ten civil society organisations stated in a statement issued in Lusaka yesterday that taking stock of what happened in the Zimbabwe election at the summit would help clear the air on alleged malpractices by stakeholders that participated in the polls.

"As civil society organizations in Zambia that observed and analyzed the just ended harmonised elections in Zimbabwe, we demand that as the SADC Heads of State Summit takes place in Lilongwe, Malawi this weekend, the regional body tables the just ended Zimbabwe harmonised elections at the summit and commissions an independent election audit on the Zimbabwean elections to clear the alleged irregularities cited by the various stakeholders who participated in the elections either as candidates, agents and or observers," the statement stated.

The ten civil society organizations include the Foundation for Democratic Process, the Southern African Center for Constructive Resolution of Disputes, Gallant Youth Zambia Foundation, Zambia National Women's Lobby and Operation Young Vote. Others are Anti-Voter Apathy Project, Young African Leaders Initiatives, Chikondi Foundation, Democratic Governance and Human Rights Advocates and the Constituency Plan of Action for Children.

"We also demand that SADC puts in place a mechanism to respect the provisions of the regional, continental protocols, guidelines and treaties governing democratic elections in the region by members states and the regional body that harmonises national laws on elections with those of the regional and continental standards," the civil society organisations stated.

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