Govt investigates National Youth Council

Sharonice Busch

The government has launched an investigation into the National Youth Council (NYC) to probe allegations of corruption, mismanagement and non-compliance.

The focus of the probe revolves around internal conflicts between the executive chairperson, Sharonice Busch, and the director, Calista Schwartz-Gowases, causing significant disruption within the organisation, according to documents obtained by The Namibian.

In a letter dated October 2023, minister of sport, youth and national service Agnes Tjongarero instructed both Busch and Schwartz-Gowases not to take any action against each other until the ministry addresses their grievances.

“ . . . the ministry is currently seized with grievances between yourselves on which we endeavour to provide feedback soon,” she said.

The investigation hearings, which started on 24 January, were conducted by a special committee appointed jointly by the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service, and the Ministry of Finance and Public Enterprises.

The investigation committee comprised chairperson Clement Daniels, Martha Domingos, Augustinus Nawaseb, Nicolars Tembwe, Ellencia Hanse and John Nguluwe.

Tjongarero last month confirmed the investigation.

“I have a lot of issues with that institution,” she said.

Among the allegations is that Schwartz-Gowases has been working without a contract since December 2021, creating a lack of clarity on powers and responsibilities between the executive chairperson and the director, resulting in power struggles.

Busch requested Schwartz-Gowases to produce proof of employment in a letter dated 25 September 2023.

Schwartz-Gowases faces accusations of interfering in the procurement system, facilitating an unauthorised payment of approximately N$300 000 to Jeovani Properties for renovations at the NYC’s head office.

Calista Schwartz-Gowases

Jeovani Properties has denied any wrongdoing.

Schwartz-Gowases is also accused of committing the NYC to a contract exceeding N$470 000 without budget approval.
In documents obtained by The Namibian, Schwartz-Gowases has denied any wrongdoing, including allegations of unfair labour practices and the victimisation of employees.

Busch’s attempts to organise an extraordinary meeting were rejected by Tjongarero, who stated that ministerial approval is required to convene such a meeting under the NYC Act.

“The reasons previously provided do not warrant an extraordinary meeting, therefore refer these agenda points to the next ordinary meeting,” Tjongarero said.

The power struggles have led to the NYC failing for the second time since its establishment to convene its yearly Representative Council meeting in 2023.

Tjongarero expressed shock at the non-compliance and pledged to write a letter demanding an exact date for the meeting.

The Representative Council is the second-highest consultative, policy and decision-making body when the General Assembly is not in session.

The last meeting was held in December 2022, and the act stipulates that the next meeting should have taken place in December 2023.

Busch is accused by Swapo sources of deliberately delaying the meeting due to a vote of no confidence against her allegedly planned to be raised at that meeting.

The Representative Council had planned to convene its ninth meeting last month, but this did not take place because several members attended a World Youth Festival in Russia.

Busch denied that the NYC leadership has violated the act.

“The act is open to interpretation,” she said.

Representative council member and Rally for Democracy and Progress Youth League secretary general Marvin Vesevete this week said not convening a meeting is a gross violation of the NYC Act.

“It is tantamount to corruption that a few members of the Representative Council are keeping it hostage for the meeting to take place. This is the second time,” he said.

Vesevete said the circumstances warrant an audit.

“It has become evident that the NYC has been turned into a Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) politburo gathering . . ,” he said.

SPYL secretary Ephraim Nekongo this week denied that the NYC is being turned into a Swapo organisation.

“The NYC is composed of political organisations . . . SPYL is just a single affiliated youth organisation with other organisations,” he said.

“How will it be deemed that it is turning into the Swapo Youth League? … I want to debunk that statement. It’s coming from an ill-informed position.”

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