When we see those involved in the Fishrot debacle, we see that male youth empowerment is well underway – in the wrong direction.

The rhetorical anthem of anyone seeking political kudos always includes youth SME loans, youth bursaries, more NSFAF loan money, and the usual vague comments in speeches about helping youth advance. Given that the majority of the population in Namibia is below 39, this makes sense. But, have the youth prepared themselves to build a better Namibia? Or is it all about self-enrichment?

The younger people in lucrative power positions are overwhelmingly young men. Are the shouts about the need for better job and business opportunities for MALE youth enrichment or to help the younger generation (including young women) keep this country alive?

We are not surprised to read reports about the alleged additional beneficiaries of fishrot funds. These 40+-year-old men have been riding the ‘wave’ of pressure for youth inclusion. Many of these clever young men were the brash Young Turks and loud voices of 10-15 years ago. They are now co-opted into ministerial or deputy ministerial posts and SOE boards. They benefit from insider-trading business opportunities with ‘investors’ steered their way. And they have high paying SOE management jobs. These are not young men who are struggling, committed activists, fighting for justice for the people. They are the nouveau riche and the black bourgeoisie. They are well-invested in the status quo.

Instead of private schools and hospitals for their families, where is their battle to uplift public facilities for everyone else? Where is the youthful fire for nationalism and the desire to uplift the nation? Where are the selflessness, personal sacrifice, and commitment to help save this country?

Arguably, this batch of ‘youth’ in high flying posts and political offices are waiting for the 70 and 80-year-olds currently in power to die off or step down. But, until they do, they are content to accept all the political, business or other pay-offs from above to get them to wait patiently in the wings.

As is normal for those new to wealth, they are loud so that everyone can see their goodies. They drive luxury cars to show-off their ‘blessings’. They crave the latest expensive cell phone (with two slots for SIM cards). They scramble for trips abroad to meet with ‘investors’. They brag about their mail-order higher degrees and ‘buy’ a large house they cannot afford.

The impatient voices of the 20+-year-old ‘youth’ already agitating for jobs and affluence are coming up behind the co-opted group of ‘young-ish’ men masquerading as youth leaders. They are being suppressed (for now). But, some of that new generation of ‘hungry’ youth who see that greed and selling out to the power structures does pay, can’t wait to do the same.

Where are their new ideas? Bringing youth to the power table is supposed to bring innovation, modernization, new ideas, new blood, and more energy. Well, where is it? Are their innovative talents skewed towards getting a piece of a fishrot pie?

The old people in power are using the only ideas they know from decades past to solve modern problems. It is not working. These young men who have achieved opportunities to step into power roles are not bringing new ideas to the table. Either they are overly submissive as they blindly follow their appointing authorities into the fire or they pretend loyalty while subtly moving to line their pockets. Young people in positions of authority must carve out another option and focus on the country instead of only themselves.

Why don’t those with access to power and high salaries adopt a rural school or clinic and help out? They seem unwilling to drive a Toyota Corolla so that the hundreds of thousands needed for a flashy new car can go into social services for the needy. Why aren’t they downscaling their lifestyles to buy food for impoverished retired PLAN veterans?

There is a young man in Oshakati State Hospital that needs less than $30,000 for surgery to fix his severely broken leg. The government has no money to fulfil their mandate and provide him with the surgery to which he is entitled. Why aren’t these luxury-car driving ‘youth’ leaders helping this suffering young man?

Instead of grappling with real issues to serve the public, some of those calling themselves youth leaders are busy living their best life.

All of this begs the question of whether the ‘youth’ waiting in the wings to run this country tomorrow are any better than what is already in place. We remain unconvinced.

Each revelation of a cabal of younger ‘insiders’ who are only committed to their wallets and not also to a better Namibia, leaves the question unanswered.