Youth Leagues - Young Turks or Turkish delight?



Young people are invariably the most progressive members of society and have the unique role to play in enhancing the profile and performance of political activities, a Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES) report in 2010 states.
Since the youth are predominantly organised within the framework of youth leagues in political parties as asserted in the FES report, it becomes imperative to look at their roles and how influential they are in local political parties and other structures.
The African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) in neighbouring South Africa has been very vocal and influential within the mother party and not even the recent expulsion of their president, Julius Malema would dampen their spirit.
In fact, they are hard at work, fighting for his reinstatement in the party and could succeed. Watch this space.
The ANCYL has particularly been going to town about macro-economic policy changes towards achieving an industrialised SA; free quality education for all; fast tracking the return of land to the indigenous people without compensation and the nationalisation of mines.
So what are the issues that concern political youth leagues in Namibia and how visible have they been in pushing their agendas at the top of their various parties’ lists of priorities?
Most political parties’ youth leagues are still in their nascent stages of growth and have little or no input to decisions taken by the mother parties.
The FES report notes that youth leagues in eastern Africa have held regular meetings to shape their common development goals across the political divide in a continent where youth leagues are mostly used as vigilante groups by mother bodies.
However, youth leagues in Namibia seem to be caught up in the political agendas of their various mother bodies instead of creating fora to promote issues irrespective of political orientation.
The National Youth Council (NYC) is one such vehicle that could be used to push for the achievement of common youth goals.
Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) secretary, Sibuku Malumbano, however, said the NYC is mainly used as a leadership ‘testing ground’ for Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) members before they are ushered into top positions within the party’s senior structures and Government.
“The NYC has also largely been used to promote the politics of the stomach rather than concentrating on issues affecting the youth,” Malumbano charged.
He claimed that his party’s youth league was strategically sidelined to take up leadership positions within the NYC as they were only granted membership after the general assembly from which elections took place.
He pointed out that poverty alleviation, infant mortality rate and education as some of the main issues driving the RDPYL.
Young Democrats, the Congress of Democrats youth wing secretary-general, Sandra Gases concurred with Malumbano on the NYC.
“The NYC should advocate for the broader cause of youth issues but currently, it has been hijacked by some individuals who use it for political gain,” she noted.
Gases claimed that the youth are adequately absorbed in the top decision-making structures to promote issues affecting young people.
She further said education, the scourge of HIV and Aids as well as substance abuse are some of the burning issues that feature at the top of the YD agenda.
According to her, it is incumbent amongst the youth, as future leaders, to become involved in decision-making in the country at all levels.
The DTA of Namibia’s youth league secretary-general, Lesley Tjiriange, also lambasted the NYC for being a “grooming school” for future Swapo parliamentarians rather than advocating for youth issues.
He singled out the provision of free and quality education as the main concern of his youth league and called for a total reform of the current system.
He noted that the DTA youth league is very relevant and has been influencing its top leaders to table numerous motions in Parliament over the years.
The mother bodies of all these three youth leagues are, or were official opposition parties at some stage.
NYC executive chairperson, Mandela Kapere opined that the weak state of the various youth organisations in the country, including political party youth leagues is endemic because of the malice most civil society organisations in the country are embroiled in.
Kapere said the NYC can only be as strong as the policy inputs from its members and he did not deny that the NYC is a breeding ground for future Swapo leaders, averring that the Council should be seen to be the grooming terrain for future leaders in all spheres of society.
“Given the dominance of Swapo in society, it is not unnatural to expect the SPYL to dominate the NYC,” he asserted, urging other youth organisation leaders to use the exposure they get at the Council to actively engage with Government leaders and promote their statures.
He also noted that the NYC groomed non-Swapo cadres such as former DTA of Namibia MP, McHenry Venaani, former CoD spokesperson, Natji Tjirare and Zack Makari of Nanaso.