Young people in Namibia are often accused of being without vision and do not care about politics or take their role as citizens seriously and the silent approach adopted by youth leagues of political parties in the country has to some extent highlighted the inactiveness of young people in formal politics.
This however does not mean young people have no strongly defined opinions or knowledge of current affairs, with many involved in some kind of civic activity while others have taken a keen interest in the future of the country and are staking their claim in forging that future, albeit in different ways outside politics.
Political analyst Dr. Andrew Niikondo opines that “at a time when the youth are the hardest hit by the economic crunch, it is expected of youth leaders to be on full arm creating discourse on the situation.
Whether this is a strategy to work in silence, it is a concern because the youth are supposed to have a voice on national issues. Obviously they are being advised how to operate but total silence is not a wise position at a time when young people need direction and a space for engagement.
They are supposed to raise issues, interfere where need be, raise debates on national issues in order for their supporters to know their directions,” said Niikondo.
According to Niikondo, it is very important for the youth wings to say something and talk about matters affecting them and the country at large as they are the future leaders.
“Youth wings in their nature are not the party’s protagonists, but have an influence on the party’s national policies.
They carry politicians to greater heights. Most of the leaders who do well in the political arena are from grassroots.
If thus, the youth wing doesn’t exist or is mum on national issues, then that party will hardly exist in future as there is no link between the youth and senior leaders of the party,” Niikondo said.
Another analyst, Phanuel Kaapama shares the same sentiments with Niikondo saying now more than ever youth wings should stand up to be heard on issues affecting young people.
“There are so many things affecting young people and if they want to come off as relevant, now is the time to come out.
We are currently debating the budget. You hear the health, youth and education budgets have been cut severely and these are things that will greatly hurt the youth. So why are the young wings quiet?” queried Kaapama.
According to Kaapama, the lack of interest of ordinary youth in politics stems from the silence of those who should be creating the platform for them to relate. “Unlike during our days when youth did not wait to be invited to take on national issues, the winds of change are currently not bearing the right fruits.
Back then we did not wait to be invited, we invited ourselves. Our youth leaders today are interested in wearing suits, being invited for conferences, and addressing the youth through NBC cameras. They have no touch with the ordinary youth on the ground. I am yet to see a public meeting called by the youth leaders in the community to talk about national issues,” said Kaapama adding that youth wings have the role to galvanize support for their political parties.
Secretary General of the Popular Democratic Movement’s (PDM) youth league Bensen Katjirijova blamed the media for ignoring the voice of the youth when it comes to youth issues. Katjirijova, who is equally concerned of the inactiveness of youth leagues in the country, said the media have failed them in putting them on the forefront of the youth discourse.
“You wonder why people do not hear from us but the media does not attend to our media conferences.
You send them press releases in response to matters hurting the youth and they will still not publish it,” he said.
The youth leader accused the media of favoring the elders over the youth charging that youth wings no longer get the same prominence as party presidents.
“If the PDM leader calls for a press conference, all journalists will attend but if the youth league calls for the same audience, they will not come.
It is my opinion that the media does not want to cover upcoming politicians. They will not even call the youth wings for comments on issues about the youth but will call the elders,” he said.
Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) secretary general Ephraim Nekongo shot down the concerns saying his party youth are more active than ever under his leadership.
“It is not true that we are quiet, if you want us to be unruly, then you will not get that from the current leadership.
If our activeness should be judged on how we insult elders and leaders of the party, then you will not get that from us,” he said.
Ekongo, who heads the country’s biggest and most active youth wing, vowed to revamp the youth league and make it great again.
He added that the new leadership would see that they unite and respect each other, from districts to regions and the country at large. It is nine months later and the league under the Ekongo leadership has not come out as strong as that of their predecessors.
“We are not seeking popularity like the old leadership.
We have an organized structure which we follow and it is not on social media like that of the former leadership.
We do not run to the media to tell them what we are doing because we are not in the popularity contest.
The previous leadership has not done anything, be it on land, education or youth unemployment so you cannot compare us with them as we have a direction of what we want to achieve,” said Ekongo.
A source familiar to the local youth politics alleged that youth wings do not produce radical individuals anymore because young party members are forced to dance to the tunes of the elders.
“Many of the radical youth leaders have either been suspended or silenced with ministerial posts.
It has become politics of the belly and the youth are afraid to be radical because of fear of not getting a ministerial post of becoming a minister’s personal assistance.
The big guns now have the youth in their pockets and all they are good for is clapping hands,” said a former political youth leader who preferred anonymity.