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Mixed Reactions Over SADC Moves to Empower Africans

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe listens to speakers at the 34th Southern African Development Conference (SADC) summit in Victoria Falls August 17, 2014.

The 34th Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ordinary Summit was expected to end in Victoria Falls on Monday with leaders promising to effectively use natural resources in the region to empower millions of people.

Critics are divided over the summit’s immediate benefits to the ordinary poor with some saying the event was a mere talk show.

Some Zimbabweans believe that the SADC leaders will fight for the empowerment of people in the region with the new chairman, President Robert Mugabe, courting his colleagues to use his black economic empowerment model.

Shirley Kapuyanyika Matundu is among local people who think that the summit’s theme “Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Transformation Through Beneficiation and Value Addition”, was well-timed.

Matundu, an advocacy officer with the Christian Legal Society, says President Mugabe will use the theme to fight for black economic empowerment during his chairmanship of the regional bloc.

She says other leaders will embrace Mr. Mugabe’s push for black economic empowerment though Zimbabwe’s scheme of transferring 51 percent stakes of foreign companies appears to be unpopular.

But Prosper Chitambara of the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe says it is unlikely that President Mugabe will use the SADC chairmanship to push for his black empowerment agenda.

He says most regional leaders do not support Zimbabwe’s black empowerment model.

African National Congress secretary general Gwede Manthashe last week made it clear that South Africa will not be adopting some controversial policies Mr. Mugabe has embarked on such as the land reform. Manthashe blames them for Zimbabwe’s economic problems.

Japhet Moyo of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions echoes Chitambara’s sentiments saying President Mugabe’s black empowerment program is unpopular in the SADC region.

He says the SADC Summit was a mere talk show.

Godwin Phiri, director of youth group – Intcha – agrees, noting that African leaders have a bad record in taking care of the needs of the people.

He says African nations need billions of dollars to implement some of these programs.

Matundu hopes that the leaders will harness natural resources like diamonds to benefit local people.

SADC member states are mobilizing $500 billion needed for infrastructure development under the region’s ambitious Infrastructure Development Master Plan.

This has so far proved to be a Herculean task as the 15-member SADC states are struggling to raise even the $60 billion for the first phase.

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