MISA Regional Governing Council (RGC) Chairperson, Golden Maunganidze
Welcome Remarks Spaces of Solidarity (SoS) Conference
20 October 2022
Representatives of MISA Regional Chapters, here present DW Akademie Director Mr Carsten v. Nahmen, and members of your team
Fellow free expression advocacy groups and allies from the region
Our resource persons
Greetings! Sawubona! Avuxeni! Dumela!
Allow me to wholeheartedly welcome you to Johannesburg, South Africa, as your host.
It is my very sincere gratitude that we managed, in our multiplicity of formations from Southern Africa, to travel to this historic regional meeting.
This alone is no mean feat, but your expression of commitment and loyalty to the cause of serving the people of Southern Africa, the continent, and the entire globe, through organic institutions and networks borne of the need to defend free expression in the region.
As MISA, we are honoured that the representatives of the people of Southern Africa, through your esteemed organisations, took heed of the clarion call to urgently convene and attend to the growing threats on free expression in the region.
It has, however, taken a long time to prepare for this safe space, from which we seek to utilise our collective expertise and experiences in shaping a cohesive response to the fast-paced, changing environment.
As with all historic processes, they tend to take long, but when they do happen, they inevitably change the course of events.
This meeting presents us with an opportunity, for the first time in a long time, to collectively strengthen the shield of defending expression in the region.
This process requires the greatest possible cohesion among the organic regional players.
For a long time, our voices as a collective have been expressed through other people than by ourselves. At times some even attempted to lead the process of structuring what in their minds they thought were the best platforms to represent and articulate the regional complexities.
Unfortunately, this did not gain the traction they desired. The process requires well-informed restructuring approaches and interventions that give birth to organic and mutually shared values of solidarity and collaboration.
One cannot achieve progressive transformation of the region without an organic regional movement or platform leading the process.
We are, thus, at this historic moment as a people of Southern Africa, together with like-minded support partners, shaping the course of regional advocacy and defining the key priority issues that require attention and galvanising ourselves towards a broader unified campaign mechanism that responds to the day-to-day pressures in the region.
As a result of our own failure to define our contours of leadership in the region, others from without the region, had taken a vested interest in filling the vacuum.
However, as we meet today, we are reaffirming the decision to lead and articulate the cause and course of the region in defending free expression.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no vacuum in Southern Africa!
We are therefore here, today, as the organic establishments that are duly recognised in our jurisdictions for their integrity in promoting the cause of free expression.
As an alliance, we have created this safe space of solidarity to scale up our issues, inter-linking them at regional, continental and global stages.
Once again, and with your indulgence, allow me to remind you that we are in this Space of Solidarity, and we need to deliberately engage on all the agenda items on the programme and leave this very space reinvigorated and mobilised towards the attainment of the resolutions that will emerge from this conference.
Over the years, all manner of tensions have arisen. Relationships have often been marked more by conflict than cooperation. That period is over, as unity and collaboration are the life-saving jackets at our disposal.
You can only go fast alone, but together we go further!
The defence of our unity as the organic formations from Southern Africa is a strategic goal that we need to defend at every material time to ensure the cohesion required to carry out the immense responsibilities of defending free expression in the region and beyond.
By defending the unity of the Spaces of Solidarity, we will defend the fundamental forces required to sustain the positive changes we yearn for in the region.
We are therefore here, today, to discuss and address the questions that you may have in our desire and drive to forge a collective and cohesive way forward.
Our discussions will thus be informed by the time-proven and informed position that we are the rightful organisations to construct the campaigning platforms to address the myriad of challenges confronting our region.
Suffice to note that, as we convene, here today, we do not do so to belabour and dwell in the past, but to respond to the strategic question:
Where do we want our respective countries, region, and by extension, the entire continent to be tomorrow in as far as freedom of expression is concerned?
To that effect, what is the form and scope of interventions required to achieve the same?
As MISA, we believe we have the minds and willpower capable of ensuring that the processes and engagements of the Space of Solidarity will provide the leadership required to mobilise and galvanise the people of Southern Africa in response to the threats on free expression in line with the strategic objectives of ensuring and protecting their fundamental right to free expression!
You can only go fast alone, but together we go further!