The assassination of 52-year-old Eswatini human rights lawyer and pro-democracy activist Thulani Rudolf Maseko two weeks ago points to the need for SADC to focus its membership requirements on ordinary citizens’ well-being.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) condemned Maseko’s murder during a meeting of heads of state and government of its ‘Organ on Politics, Defence and Security’.
Such statements are standard for SADC, which often refrains from saying anything that can be viewed as criticism of the prevailing government.
Maseko’s 21 January assassination took place hours after the authoritarian King Mswati III issued warnings to eliminate “demonic” citizens of his kingdom in reference to human rights and democracy advocates.
SADC statements have fallen short of criticising language that fuels violence when it comes from government leaders.
The southern African organisation is still stuck in the past practices of an old boys club, men who seem to think the purpose of SADC is self-preservation of individual leaders.
Despite changing its name from a “coordinating conference” to a “development community”, SADC has largely remained a platform to serve politicians who occupy governmental office.
They defanged units such as the SADC Tribunal after the Zimbabwean government lost a case against its citizens who challenged the violent land grabs promoted by then president Robert Mugabe.
Repression of free speech and democracy by government authorities in the region has continued.
Not even the massive exodus of people in violent areas and countries such as Zimbabwe have prompted SADC leaders to transform the organisation into becoming useful for ordinary citizens.
SADC remains without key requirements of what it takes to be a member state except geographical placement, and even that seems open to interpretation, depending on the whims of politicians.
Democracy, good governance and economic stability should be made the key basic requirements of SADC.
Rewards and sanctions ought to apply if the regional block is to become meaningful after more than 40 years of waffling by self-serving politicians.
The murder of activists like Thulani Maseko, and the suppression of basic rights and mismanagement of economies in SADC countries that has forced many to flee will never end until it makes the welfare of ordinary citizens the only focus of its existence.
President Hage Geingob should not lose this glorious opportunity as chair of the security “organ” to help revamp the toothless SADC herd that it has been for decades.