By Felix Njini

Since they started meeting in Tanzania in 2010, their summit has been held a week before SADC's and now the region's two most important dates on the political calendar could merge as of 2012.

This was resolved at the second Summit of leaders of MPLA (Angola), ANC (South Africa), Chama Cha Mapinduzi (Tanzania), FRELIMO (Mozambique), SWAPO (Namibia) and ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe) in Windhoek on Thursday.

Zambia's UNIP was not represented for as yet unclear reasons.

Namibia's President Hifikepunye Pohamba, who is also the president of the country's ruling SWAPO, chaired the meeting.

In attendance were Presidents Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

FRELIMO secretary-general Cde Filipe Chimoio Paunde, his ANC counterpart Cde Gwede Mantashe, and Chama Cha Mapinduzi secretary-general Cde Wilson Mukama were present.

Representing MPLA was Cde Alberto de Almeda, the party's vice president.

The first such meeting was in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in May 2010 in response to a scaled-up onslaught by neo-colonial forces.

Their coming together has its historical basis in the Front Line States, which in turn formed the core of the Southern Africa Development  Co-ordination Conference that later morphed into the Southern Africa Development Community.

'The heads of political parties resolved to hold the summit of heads of the former liberation movements at the sidelines of the SADC summit,' they said in their Windhoek communiqué.

The heads' meeting was preceded by a meeting of secretaries-general and youth league leaders of the former liberation movements.

It was also resolved that former liberation movements collaborate with the African Union and UNESCO to establish an African Liberation Heritage, a project the parties want endorsed at the next AU Summit.

The meeting renewed calls for Western countries to remove illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, and in the same vein urged the AU and the United Nations to demand the release of the Cuban Five.

The Cuban Five are a group of patriots from the largest Caribbean nation who have been imprisoned in the US for years now without recourse to a fair trial.

The Southern African parties also resolved to rally behind the lifting of the 50-year-old US embargo on Cuba.

The UN General Assembly has for some 20 years in a row unanimously called for an end to the embargo but the US has ignored this.

'Heads of former liberation movements reiterate their call for the immediate and unconditional removal of the inhuman and illegal economic sanctions against the people of Zimbabwe,' the Windhoek communiqué reads.

They resolved to 'individually and collectively through multilateral forums such as SADC, AU and UN to demand the release of Cuban Five and lifting of the inhuman and barbaric sanctions on Cuba by the government of United States of America.'

The political leaders agreed to support and broaden the ownership of The Southern Times newspaper, the regional weekly newspaper co-owned by New Era Corporation of Namibia and Zimpapers (1980) Ltd of Zimbabwe.

Ownership, they noted, should encompass all Southern African former liberation movements' governments.

President Pohamba set the tone of the one-day Summit by pointing out that the region's history was steeped in the common fight against colonial and foreign occupation.

Former liberation parties should close ranks and fulfill 'ideals that thousands of our comrades shed their precious blood and sacrificed their lives for during the struggle against colonialism and apartheid', President Pohamba said.

'The struggle against colonialism was not only aimed at achieving political freedom and restoration of the dignity of the African people, it was also about gaining access to the means of production such as land, gaining the right to benefit from the natural resources that our countries are endowed with, which they have been denied for centuries.'

Economic empowerment should be the new battle cry, President Pohamba said.

'We must now struggle, just as hard, if not harder, for economic empowerment of our people.'

Political parties should consult and exchange views if they were to remain true to the ideals of freedom, social justice and preservation of human dignity, President Pohamba added.

Parties should strive to keep alive the ideals that they fought for, said President Pohamba, who alongside Namibia's Founding President Sam Nujoma led SWAPO in a 21-year war against the racist and repressive South African apartheid regime.

'We faced a common enemy in the form of colonialism, apartheid and oppression.

'Today we face a common enemy in the form of poverty, hunger, underdevelopment  .... We should therefore adopt common strategies to confront these challenges with the same determination in order to improve the living conditions of our people,' President Pohamba said.

The liberation movements first came together under the Pan-African Freedom Movement for East, Central and Southern Africa (PAFMECSA) in 1962.

After the formation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963, the continental body – through the Liberation Committee led so astutely by Brigadier Hashim Mbita of Tanzania – took over much of PAFMECSA's work.

To concentrate efforts on Southern Africa's specific needs, the Front Line States came about in the 1970s.

In 1980, they formalized this grouping as SADCC, which transformed into SADC in 1992.


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