SAPST Breaks New Ground in The SADC Region

SAPST Breaking New Ground in the SADC Region on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights The Board of Trustees of the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST), at its inception in 2007, set its sights on a regional foothold for the organisation to ensure that its successes at home would cascade into the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

SAPST broke new ground when in 2016 it secured a two-year grant from the Department of State, Bureau on Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) for a programme to be undertaken in Botswana, Lesotho and Malawi. The programme will seek to enhance the recognition, promotion, protection and fulfilment of Social, Economic and Cultural Rights in the SADC generally, but in the target countries in particular.

The programme will enhance the capacity of parliamentary committees and Members of Parliament (MPs) on the one hand, and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the public generally, on the other in terms of parliament-stakeholder engagement. It will also build the capacity of parliamentary committees in holding elected officials accountable to the people through Parliament. The overall goal of the programme is to strengthen parliamentary committees and promote parliament-CSO engagement.

SAPST will achieve this through a number of initiatives that include training seminars, live radio programmes and public hearings.

It is anticipated that the initiative will positively impact on the legislative processes in the region, with the enactment of appropriate rights-sensitive legislation and policy programmes. The programme will also enhance executive accountability and a responsive citizenry.

The programme represents SAPST’s most serious entry into the region. It deepens previous initiatives during which the Trust would only conduct periodic activities in regional countries. Now it has an every-day presence, with offices in the countries under this programme. SAPST has conducted workshops in Malawi and Botswana, and will conduct another one in January of 2017 in Lesotho. The Trust has also successfully established links with CSOs in the 3 target countries.

SAPST has opened an office in Blantyre, Malawi. It recruited personnel, who include a Programme Officer and a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer. The former is the former Clerk of Parliament of Malawi. SAPST has also held meetings with the Speaker of Parliament, chairpersons of committees and CSOs. SAPST was on air with the first radio programme on the 25th of November 2016. The organisation is currently identifying issues to pursue in Malawi on social, economic and cultural rights.

In Botswana, the organisation recruited a programme officer . A good working relationship has been established with Duma FM, a private radio station in Gaborone. Indeed, SAPST was on air in Gaborone on the 6th of December 2016 to discuss the launch of the DRL programme as well as sensitise stakeholders on the nature of its work. A consultant is currently undertaking a mapping exercise on CSOs working on women’s participation in social, economic and cultural rights, as well as on Gender Based Violence (GBV) in schools.

Turning to Lesotho, the country faces chronic socio-political challenges. Its Parliament is currently adjourned sine die, although it was expected to sit in early 2017. SAPST has surveyed the terrain and established links with key stakeholders which include CSOs, including the umbrella Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in the Kingdom. SASPT management has also met with the Speaker of the National Assembly, among other key stakeholders in Lesotho. As stated above, SAPST is looking forward to the successful conduct of its January 2017 workshop in Maseru, Lesotho.

The above programme is proof that SAPST is working towards being a regional brand. It has already scored some successes, while working towards full representation and presence, as well as a footprint in all countries of the SADC region.