The Southern African Development Community (SADC) made up of 15 countries held its 38th Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government in Windhoek, Namibia. The summit was held under the theme “Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development.”
The SADC region is one of the few that experienced direct rule during the colonial era, leading to armed struggle in most of the countries. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mauritius, Lesotho, Botswana, Kingdom of Eswatini and South Africa were under British rule. Angola and Mozambique were colonised by Portugal and gained their independence through armed struggle as well. Tanzania and Namibia were first colonised by Germany before the United Kingdom and South Africa took over respectively. In both countries, the armed struggle played a role in getting independence. Namibia gained independence from South Africa on 21 March 1990, following the Namibian War of Independence. Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo gained their independence from Belgium.
The countries in the region share a deep history that goes back to the colonial period and the attainment of independence. In a communiqué issued after the 38th Ordinary Summit held in Windhoek, member states endorsed 23rd of March as a date to mark the Southern Africa Liberation struggle of resistance.
In South Africa, the 27th of April is Freedom Day. It celebrates freedom and commemorates the first post-apartheid elections held on that day in 1994. On May 25, Africa Day is set aside to commemorate those who sacrificed their lives for the African liberation struggle. Africa Day which was called Africa Liberation Day was started in 1958 by Kwame Nkrumah.
The Southern African Liberation Day would likely bring into sharper focus the efforts of liberation struggle in individual Southern African countries. Beyond Nelson Mandela, Sam Nujoma and Robert Mugabe who are well known liberation figures, other liberation figures need to be celebrated and remembered.
Most importantly, the history surrounding the liberation struggle and its importance to conversations such as the #RhodesMustFall movement and the land repatriation conversation which cuts across most of the Southern African countries can’t be overemphasized.
Significance of 23 March
The date is a special day for the region, highly regarded as one of the turning points in Southern Africa’s history. The day is dedicated to the Cuito Cuanavale battle, fought in the Angolan province of Cuando Cubango in 1988, between the Angolan Army, aided by Cuban forces, and the invading troops of the former apartheid regime in South Africa. The fighting in the south western part of Angola led to the withdrawal of the South African, ANC and Cuban presence in Angola, and to the Independence of Namibia. The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale is commemorated in several countries in southern Africa.