On the 14th August 2020, Lesotho developed a declaration to the SADC Peoples’ Summit 2020. The theme of the year 2020 is “SADC@: Towards a people centred post-Covid 19 recovery plan.” The meeting was organised by Development for Peace Education under the general umbrella of SAPSN. In preparing for the SADC People’s summit 2020 under the regional body SAPSN and brought together representatives from social sectors including farmers, non-governmental organisations, women, children, people with disability, youth, transport, trade unions, street vendors and the education sector. In line with health regulations, the declaration was built through an on-line meeting.
Issues raised in the meeting included the need for the reforms process to allow inclusion of community voices through a review of Section 85 of the Constitution of Lesotho as there was broad agreement that reforms process should be participatory, and citizen driven. Another issue discussed during the meeting was the need to strengthen technology-based learning strategies as the need for social distancing to avoid transmission of Covid 19 has deeply undermined education at all levels and exposed the need for broad-based e-learning systems, including for rural and poor communities. The general agreement was that every person’s right to education must be protected and secured at all costs.
Citizen participation in law and public policy-making was another issue of concern raised; with specific reference to the failures in the making of the National wool and mohair regulations that had resulted in deep dissatisfaction amongst farmers and some financial losses for wool and mohair farmers. The meeting agreed that citizen participation is fundamental to democracy and that law and policy-making cannot be an exclusive sphere of government. Participants were also concerned with the fact that budget-making in Lesotho is closed to citizens others than bureaucrats, with limited influence of elected public representatives.
The women and children sectors stated that national and globally cases of gender-based violence and abuse have increased at a very high pace, mostly due to the lock-down enforced as part of measures against the spread of Covid 19. They therefore demanded that the justice sector address the abuse of women and children and that law enforcement should prioritise the cases these cases with a focus on the enactment of the Gender based violence bill.
Trade Unions on the other hand made a demand for development of a joint platform of government, investors and workers to address issues in the sector as workers are the most directly impacted and affected by Covid 19 and the measures to prevent its spread. They also proposed development of a social insurance in response to the pandemic. Street vendors strongly believed that a grant must be provided for them to restart and boost their businesses.
The disability sector on the other hand declared that people with disability are affected by the COVID19 and thus need to be protected by government institutions and that therefore the national reforms processes should include a key discussion on the issues of people with disability. The sector also stated that people with disability are also victims of abuse and violence and thus need to be protected by the society and government.
In concluding the meeting; representatives of the sector made a statement of solidarity with all people who have experienced policy brutality and abuse with the declaration; We say “no” to instances of police brutality and abuse and stand in solidarity to say enough is enough. SADC heads of state must put in place a strategy to aid in post-Covid 19 recovery and alleviate the high poverty rate the region is likely to face post 2020.