Southern Africa Liberation Day

SANF 22 no 12

The Southern Africa Liberation Day is a special date in the calendar of the SADC region as it marks one of the major turning points in the history of Southern Africa`s struggle against colonial rule and apartheid.

This was the message from the current SADC Chairperson, President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi who emphasized on the importance of the day “to recognize the priceless sacrifice of the generation of men and women who fought gallantly for the liberation of Southern Africa.”

The SADC Chair called on people of the region to draw inspiration from the SADC Founders and be masters of their destiny saying, “… we reflect with pride upon the freedom we enjoy today, freedom to be masters of our destiny,” he said.

“Drawing inspiration from our Founders, we realise that political freedom alone is not enough, if not accompanied by sustainable socio-economic development that that lifts our people from poverty to prosperity,” he added.

The small town of Cuito Cuanavale in the province of Cuando Cubango in southern Angola was the epicentre of one the fiercest conventional battles of African history after the Second World War.

From November 1987 to March 1988, thousands of combatants from the People’s Liberation Armed Forces (FAPLA) supported by the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) and the Cuban Revolutionary Forces fought to defend the country and defeated the armed forces of the Apartheid regime of South Africa.

23 March is therefore the date selected by the 16 Member States of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to commemorate Southern Africa Liberation Day. The date marks the last battle in southern Angola, at Cuito Cuanavale in 1988.

The first celebration was held on 23 March 2019 at Cuito Cuanavale, where a museum has been established and military hardware remains.

The victory at Cuito Cuanavale changed the face of southern Africa and was the last major battle for liberation, soon followed by successful negotiations for the independence of Namibia (1990) and end of the apartheid administration in South Africa (1994), enabling the region to advance to regional development and integration.

Speaking of freedom and unity, President Hage Geingob of Namibia said on the occasion of the 32nd Independence Day anniversary on 21 March, “The long and bitter struggle for independence and the sacrifices paid in blood – were replaced by the ululation of a people freed from the shackles of colonial oppression, racism, and war.”

“Today we celebrate 32 years of democracy, peace, stability and unity. It is a unity that drove this nation’s gallant sons and daughters to bravely fight for our freedom. It is a unity that has kept us together, through thick and thin, through good and bad times. It is a unity that will take us towards realising the dream of prosperity,” he added.

In addition to commemoration of the Southern Africa Liberation Day, the 38th SADC Summit approved the establishment of a regional working group of curriculum experts to determine the requirements for teaching Southern African Liberation History and its inclusion in the school syllabus of SADC Member States.

SADC leaders also put in place a mechanism to honour the Founders of SADC.

The legacy and values of the Founders of SADC are captured in a series of modules of an initial 12 aspects of Southern African Liberation History intended to provide resource material on the regional dimensions and linkages of national liberation movements in the SADC region.

The first module Youth in the Liberation Struggle and Beyond is introductory and is about the Youth, as most of those involved in the national liberation movements were Youth, who often went to live in neighbouring countries and worked together across borders to remove colonial rule and apartheid from the region. It is accessible online in three components of a book, video and social media messaging, while the second module on Teaching and Learning Liberation History is in production.

The resource material seeks to share knowledge of the regional dimensions of the liberation period, the vision of regional integration, and the values of inclusion, diversity, peace and tolerance.

These modules are being developed by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC) in partnership with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa.

42nd SADC Summit Publication 2022, click here

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