Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) secretary Ephraim Nekongo (41) has argued that his role as the head of the youth wing is to groom younger aspiring members.
Nekongo defended his stay within Swapo’s youth ranks after some analysts argued that the youth need younger representatives.
The SPYL constitution allows the secretary as the head to serve until 45, while ordinary members are within the 18-35 age bracket. The Namibian Constitution describes youth as those between the ages of 16 and 35.
“If I am a [SPYL] secretary and I’m 37 years old, because I’m an incumbent, I can be elected to serve up to the age of 45. That’s what the constitution of the youth league says,” Nekongo said.
He told The Namibian yesterday that the different age rules allow the “elders” to lead and provide wisdom to younger members.
Nekongo says elders are needed in SPYL as much as women and the youth need representation.
“We will never say we want to take over everything. You need to have the elders, women, and you need to have the youth so that the wagon is driven,” Nekongo said. He had made calls for more members from SPYL to occupy seats within the mother party.
He yesterday said he could not name any possible candidates, although some individuals fit the criteria for appointment in the parliament and Cabinet.
He said candidates are selected from SPYL.
Nekongo said the mother party would have its own electoral college to identify potential members of parliament.
If the mother party agrees to the quotas, SPYL then goes back to identify potential candidates.
“If the party then agrees to our proposal, it’s up to us as an organisation to identify these people. How do we find these people?” he asked.
Political analyst Rakkel Andreas says this plea most likely comes from SPYL members feeling disgruntled after the president appointed young people to the parliament outside of SPYL, referring to Emma Theofilus and Patience Masua.
“There were a few SPYL members who were upset with that as they (the president’s office) did not go through the rank and file of Swapo in terms of leadership with what we saw with the young ladies I mentioned,” she says.
Andreas says this issue is not unique to Swapo.
She says the party would have to exercise discretion in navigating the age limit dilemma.
She says she doubts whether Swapo would amend its constitution.
Andreas made reference to Zimbabwe’s Constitution which provides for 10 parliament seats for young people under a proportional representation system.
“I doubt that Swapo would make it a constitutional amendment, and I anticipate that it would likely receive the same fate as the gender quota,” she says.
Andreas says when looking at previous appointments of SPYL members to the parliament, one could argue that some are “youthful enough”.
Meanwhile, political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah says the voice of young people is important, and SPYL’s plea is within reason.
“According to the constitution of Swapo, SPYL is the transmitting belt for future leaders within the mother body, and there has been that sense that they have been overlooked,” he says.
This comes after Swapo is set to discuss the request by its youth league representatives to reserve a 50% quota of its parliamentary and Cabinet seats for capable young people.
He says although the president has done a lot by including young people in parliamentary and economic advisory roles, the appointed youth is not from within Swapo’s structures.
Kamwanyah says SPYL wants to see the majority of active and capable youth coming from within the party and the youth branch.
He says young people are currently not happy with the party.
“This would help in neutralising the anger young people feel towards the party,” Kamwanyah says.
“The focus should be on capable young people and not just on a 50/50 quota,” he says.
Kamwanyah says the problem SPYL faces is that it struggles to abide by its own rules.
He says the former secretary of the youth party, Elijah Ngurare, was appointed according to the age limit set by the party.
The party needs to reform its constitution to ensure young people “are actually young and can serve”, he says.
“I think they need to reform their constitution to make sure really young people are serving in SPYL structures. Being 37 years old, acting on behalf of young people doesn’t really make sense,” Kamwanyah says.
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