Windhoek — The Southern Africa Civil Society Forum wants heads of state and government attending the forthcoming SADC summit to suspend the impending chairpersonship of Angola until full compliance with the provisions of the SADC Treaty and other protocols.
Angola is to take over the SADC chairmanship from Namibia during the SADC Heads of State Summit this week.
The call comes in the wake of the detention and deportation of civil society delegates to the 7th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum, taking place in Luanda, Angola.
"We strongly believe that Angola does not deserve to chair SADC until they have resolved their internal democratic deficits, lack of transparency and continued repression of civil society voices," the organisations said on Friday.
Some leaders of the Regional Apex civil society organisations such as the Fellowship of Christian Councils of Southern Africa (FOCCISA), Southern Africa Development Community - Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (SADC-CNGO), and the Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) were reportedly detained at Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport of Luanda and later deported "without any explanation".
Those detained and subsequently deported include the Executive Director of SADC-CNGO Abie Ditlhake, Executive Secretary of SATUCC Austin Muneku and Executive Director of FOCCISA Malcolm Damon.
The civil society leaders were in Angola to participate in the 7th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum, an annual event held by civil society organisations in the country hosting the SADC Heads of State Summit, and for which permission had been granted by the Angolan government in this instance.
According to the leaders, their accommodation and planned meetings were cancelled.
In addition, two Mozambican journalists travelling with civil society delegates were also deported, despite having valid entry visas.
"The Regional Apex organisations view this incomprehensible act by the Angolan government as a blatant attempt to deny leaders of civil society an opportunity to interact with and add voice to SADC structures; and that this act also flies in the face of the tenets of the protocol on the facilitation of movement of persons to which many SADC member states are signatory," a statement issued by the civil societies stated.
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer of the Namibia Non-governmental Organisations Forum Trust (NANGOF), Ivan Lombardt, said Namibia's Chairmanship of SADC over the past year is a missed opportunity to rectify a lot of things in the region.
"When we look at SADC, there are very few who have a sense of tolerance. Namibia is one of them but has failed to ensure that the same freedom it has is also enjoyed by others in the region," Lombardt said.
According to Lombardt, during Namibia's chairmanship, Zimbabwe got worse, while Swaziland started showing signs of decay, where King Mswati is reigning supreme and Madagascar is not making any real progress.
"Namibia's handing over of the chairmanship to Angola is basically going to be a regression of issues, starting with the deportation, which is indicative of how the Angolan government deals with its citizens," he said.
Approached for comment, the Angolan Embassy responded that the whole deportation issue was not true.
"There is no deportation, they are trying to enter Angola without visas. This is not true. They must know they need to follow procedures," the Press Attaché at the embassy, Antonio Pimenta, said.