The annual Forum of the SADC Ruling Parties, organized by the Central Party School of FRELIMO and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Maputo Office, looked this year at the economic and social underpinnings of increasing public protests in Southern Africa. Party representatives from Angola, Botswana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe shared their experiences and analysis of the current challenges and discussed with academics and activists possible solutions to restore the trust in parties and political institutions throughout the region.
The impressive growth figures between 1995 and 2015, much hyped as “Africa rising”, did not lead to significant development in Southern Africa. The analysis showed that poverty, unemployment and inequality in Southern African countries rather worsened or at best remained the same. Public protests often represent expressions of collective grievances over unmet expectations of citizens with public services delivery. They also voice the growing demand of citizens to actively shape their social and political environments, to fight for dignity, social justice and a decent income.
A broader public dialogue, less centralized decision-making processes and intergenerational renewal inside political parties have been identified as important challenges to better respond to the citizens` real concerns and regain the voters` trust. The open and frank dialogue with academics and activists during the Forum has been seen as a great value by the political representatives. As one participant resumed: “Only if we get mirrored where things don`t work, we can change and come up with better and more inclusive solutions for a people centred development.”