Let me start this week’s piece with an adage which says, ’ You are never too old to learn, and you are never too young to teach.’ The SPYL congress in the Zambezi has proven that the youth are not only leaders for tomorrow but significant political actors of today to such an extent that the mother body of the Swapo Party can learn a thing or two by simply studying them. There is quite a lot of overlap between these two groups.
In politics, youth and old age are categories grounded in profound difference due to culture, but they are fruitful areas where the old can take cues from. For a longer period, we have assumed that there is something stable and ﬁxed about life cycle experiences that are dependent on biology. As you might already know youth is a very dexterous category, especially in politics, a shape shifter that has changed quite a bit over time.
As a result not only is how we deﬁne youth in politics changeable, we should also be aware of the reality that the age categories have boundaries in politics, but these boundaries should never be used as barriers to the ﬂ ow of knowledge or exchange of ideas. Because of politics, youth is embedded in how societies are organised and inﬂuences law and other policies. In the Swapo Party, in particular, the way we think about young people and our modern emphasis on age segregation has affected the development and progression in the party. Now we have to study the impact and contribution of the youth to the party.
Of course, youth is not just a product of culture, once set apart, inﬂuences and creates culture. During the independence struggle for this country, the youth played a signiﬁcant role, their energy and enthusiasm were a major factor. On the cultural sphere, young people have acted as social actors and as a result have had a huge role in determining patterns of consumption in clothing, language, music and even media.
With that said, the youth should not only be seen as leaders of tomorrow, but in this way, they are the principal participants in the modern consumers economy. Over the years the youth have displayed politics and cultural behaviours in ways that have sometimes disrupted efforts of unity in the party and social control at large. The study of the impact of the youth in politics has the potential to enlarge our understanding of these matters.
This could send many of us back into time to ﬁnd youth-focused periods and to ask what attendant periods emerged and inﬂuence earlier periods in our history. This is why we are becoming aware of certain kinds of behaviours displayed by the youth with regards to our contemporary political concerns. We need to be careful so that we do not allow these present concerns to freeze ﬂuid categories based on age in the party whose boundaries were different in the past.
Don’t get me wrong, as the youth; there is nothing wrong with our contemporary political interests to lead us to kinds of age-centred political pursuits. People who inhabit particular parts of the age spectrum also engage in speciﬁc generational experiences, as witnessed in certain political situations and as participants in politics. In a country as complex as this of ours, with its many tribal groups being an elder, like being a youth, can serve as a lens on group differences.
A different political perspective can provide a valuable vintage point on the political conﬂicts that are emerging or currently ongoing in this country. Quite a good number of the youth has been brainwashed and misled into believing that being disrespectful and rowdy towards their elder make them smart.
I’m not saying that age is the only thing that affects and distinguishes political patterns, but age can be used as a potent dimension of identity in matters of political agenda as we have seen with some groups such as the Afﬁrmative Repositioning. Have peer groups operated among older people in the same way politically as they do among the young?
As I have suggested being part of a particular time inﬂuences individuals in some ways, that is not quite the same as the peer inﬂuence that we have seen as essential to the formation of youth political ideologies and afﬁliations.
We saw in this country that these inﬂuences derive from the drive towards popularity and mutual recognition that bolstered peer political effects among some youth. At the same time, we witness the underlying insecurities and identify issues that have helped peer inﬂuence for groups such as Afﬁrmative Repositioning. This AR group has expressed a strong sentiment of having been prevented from serious participation in the mother body because those who they call elders apparently feel mechanised enough to forego their contribution. Dependency, in the Swapo Party, should not be highly regarded because as Namibian culture emphasises self-reliance and independence.
So the disillusioned group of youth feel being outside the norms of what it means to be a fully functioning and fully respected member of the Swapo Party. This somehow makes them feel that their opinions are less worthy of recognition and respect by the seniors in the party. But the Swapo Party has put some effort on inclusivity, so it will be worthwhile for us to investigate whether these sentiments extend to some members of the youth that are in support of the administration.
We need to examine how much are the views of young people matter to the party, or it has begun to isolate them based on their opinion. Some will say it is the issue of legal competence and incompetence in line with the party constitution. People below the ages of 35 are not considered able to perform various political actions that have to do with adult capabilities.
The constitution of the party is important for the youth as they are for their seniors, although they operate differently in each case when it comes to leadership. The capability of youth is based on age markers and duration of party membership. In my ‘Final Thoughts’ thoughts, I would like to emphasise how much the mother body can learn from the SPYL congress that took place in Zambezi region. The youth did only demonstrate how to restore the unity of purpose but showed how to orchestrate it.
We have long said that the party’s biggest enemies are within and the way SPYL solved that is highly commendable. It was indeed an impressive exhibition of unity that the mother body can do no better than learn from. Elijah Ngurare had left a mess of the youth wing, sowing division with his divisive and conniving leadership style.
As Veikko Nekundi has been trying to steady the ship, some feared that the youth wing has gone to the dogs. Nekundi, Mandela Kapere and a few others kept on ﬁghting to achieve not only survival of a reasonably good order for the wing, but also a unity of purpose. They kept on, but it’s their actions in the last few months that have dealt the detractors a death blow.
Now the SPYL is in a progressively powerful position than ever before. It simply is ‘let the enemies of attack from outside not from within, that way we can see them coming and avoid being stabbed in the back’. In the Zambezi, we witnessed a unity of purpose and peace for sustainable development that was executed to perfection. In installing a united leadership, the SPYL did not only eliminate division but set the standards ahead of the mother body congress which can do lots of good for itself to learn from it.
A dear friend, The Curious Citizen, summed it very well, “Contestants willingly and consciously withdrew as they knew who would be best for this new phase. The result: a factionless youth movement free from the demons of Docta Wastepaper (Ngurare) and his AR hooligans that were successfully dumped in the Zambezi river forever. Never shall defeated demons of AR come to haunt SPYL again nor have any say in the affairs of the SPYL.
“The anti-progress sharks have been circling. Having drawn blood in the past, even though it was just a drop, one can’t underestimate the power of money. It doesn’t take much to start a feeding frenzy.
As much as President Hage and his administration have introduced and passed a ﬂurry of reforms since taking ofﬁce, everything from increasing government transparency to reducing corruption and to curbing government wastefulness, none such will ever please those hellbent at seeing him fail. When faced with a choice between the same old unproductive rhetoric and changes that might pull the country out of the economic difﬁculty, some Namibians apparently would rather cling to the familiar comfort of continued demise.
Namibians do want progress and prosperity, but they want it to occur by magic. They want it to happen at a snap of the ﬁngers, not through hard work and economic prudence and discipline. They are mistaking our president for Houdini. They want him to fail so that they can look at us accusingly and say ‘we told you so’. But unfortunately for them, President Hage has and will not fail, nor has his enthusiasm faded during the difﬁcult time of lies and propaganda against him. When I was still in high school, I remember reading that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said of her free-market reform agenda, “Yes, the medicine is harsh, but the patient requires it to live.”
I read that she ﬁ red Cabinet ministers who disagreed with her actions and she even survived an assassination attempt by terrorists. She dug in her heels and didn’t budge for a second, much like President Hage is doing in the face of opposition from some inﬂuential people even in the Swapo Party. This, as we know, it is the only way to win.
If you look into history, you will ﬁnd that legendary political leader from Thatcher to Ronald Reagan to Winston Churchill; all faced staunch opposition before their actions bore fruit. Sadly for the corrupt and power-hungry, if they are expecting President to back down as the battle for survival at congress gets underway, they are sadly mistaken. And the youth, as we saw in the Zambezi in the last few days, is determined to ﬁght against political coup d’etat and factionalism by the anti-Hage.
It looks like for the power-hungry, democracy only exists when they’re in charge, even if it somehow means hijacking the agenda of a democratically elected president and government.
The anti-Hage has used anything from tribalism to the land issue as a human shield against rational action by our President, hoping to woo enough pawns with their emotionally charged wailing. As progressive Namibians, we have no choice but to keep forging ahead and seizing every opportunity to change some mindsets.
Namibia is like that nervous swimmer who stands paralysed on the high diving board, afraid to take the plunge. If you give him a shove and he’s forced into the water, he might yell at you all the way down, but he’ll be proud of his achievement by the time he bobs back up to the surface. Namibia badly needs such a shove. And President Hage is the man.