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Executive Director for Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) Dalitso Kubalasa who is also Southern Africa People’s Solidarity Network (SAPSN) Secretary General, has called on civil society organizations in the SADC region to step up efforts of fighting poverty and social injustices perpetrated by mining and other deals in the extractive sectors in the region.

Kubalasa was speaking in Johannesburg, South Africa during the training on Extractives that SAPSN organized for its members. The training was to reinforce members understanding of the extractive industry to ably advocate for transparency, accountability and fight against corruption in the sector.

Kubalasa’s remarks follows the realization that much of SADC is still poor despite increased interest in the natural resource endowments it is rich in, out of which mining is also becoming one of the major sources of revenue for many SADC countries.

“We are known to be poor yet our countries are endowed with rich natural resources. Why should we continue wobbling in poverty while other entities (multi-national companies, etc) are getting the most of our natural resources at the expense of our own people? I still believe we have a lot to do. May be we are not doing enough. This may be a way of polishing our act together,” says Kubalasa.

Facilitator of the training Edward Lange from Southern Africa Resource Watch in OSISA says no country in Africa is benefiting from mining as multi-national corporations go away with huge profits at the expense of local communities.

He says most companies ask for tax holidays as a condition for their investment. However, the companies are closing operations before Governments start accessing tax benefits. The companies sometimes return with another name so that they avoid tax by further asking for tax exemption.

When the mining companies bolt quickly, surrounding communities are further left with an environmental challenge as mining destabilize their livelihood. Lange also expressed a growing concern that civil society organizations are not pushing enough to effect change so that indigenous resources are not exploited by multinational corporations. He says CSO’s need to comprehend tricks that multinationals employ so that they can ably advocate against mineral exploitation in SADC states.

Many countries get raw deals from mining firms since they do not have good negotiation skills but also because of corruption of government officials who end up enriching themselves at the expense of the state.

Furthermore, mining communities are heavily destabilized ecologically. They do not see commitments which the companies promise before starting the exploitation of minerals. Currently it is only South Africa that legislated corporate social responsibility in order to counter verbal promises which are generally not honoured by multinationals mining corporations. The training was attended by participants from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mauritius, Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi and South Africa.

The training on extractives is the first initiative that SAPSN Secretariat has conducted apart from the People’s Summit which happens annually on the sidelines of the SADC heads of state and government meeting.