Swapo in search of high calibre youth leadership

The Swapo Party 3rd Policy Conference that started in Windhoek this morning is tasked to direct the party and formulate policies for the future and is held under the appropriate theme of ‘’Strengthening the Swapo Party for a United Congress 2022’’ in preparation for the decisive meeting, particularly for the 2024 Presidential and National Elections.

From President Hage Geingob opening remarks the gathering is important in the sense that it will deliberate on critical issues such as Youth Empowerment and Employment.

The future belongs to the youth, the President declared saying that future cannot be achieved through rhetoric, but requires ‘’high quality and calibre of young people’’ who regular consult their maps not to lose direction.

Eligibility for leadership, he reminded the youth and the delegates, is not only by age and gender, but should be achieved through ‘’aptitude and appetite for hard work, effective strategy’’.

Therefore, we would think that the president has bought into change and is ready for the transition of the youth to the various leadership and decision-making structures of the part and the Government.

But, we should agree to disagree that hard work is not a particular hallmark of today’s youth, who are not interested to work for what they want, but entitlement to get something by hook or by crook. They are influenced by what has come to be known in Africa WaBenzi culture.

The youth aspiring for leadership in political parties, including Swapo, should be hard working and talented to free the country from economic paralysis – that is the calibre of leadership the country requires – a selfless cadre doing everything for the common good.

Swapo or any political party needs a youth that would transform it into a political vehicle constantly consulting with the electorate and coming with proactive interventions facing the country and the parties they represent.

This according to President Geingob is the reason why the 3rd Policy Conference is held for the party to constantly lead from the front and to be the trendsetter in socio-economic policy formulation.

Geingob and some of veterans in the party seem not to agree on the trajectory at which the party is moving. For instance, the former Prime Minister, Nahas Angula, who is also attending the Policy Conference and would be a facilitator of some sessions, says that ‘’Swapo cadres are motivated to be in Swapo because of material benefits and personal gain’’.

Writing in an opinion piece in a local English daily on 24 June 2022, Angula states that ‘’many youths are disillusioned and disappointed because of high levels of unemployment and generalised poverty’’.

During this conference, the Swapo Party is devoting an entire session to Youth Empowerment and Employment. Also to be addressed during the conference is the post Covid-19 recovery of the economy, the recent offshore discovery of oil, the green hydrocarbon development as well as the 2024 Election Manifesto of the party. If the conference is not just a talk-shop and is intended to come up with tangible solutions to issues such as unemployment, it could prove many critiques of the current administration and of the Swapo as prophets of doom.

To Nahas ‘’competence, loyalty, experience and commitment no longer seem to matter’’ in the party, but from Hage’s opening remarks today, the president does not buy into this thinking because he is looking for hardworking youth whose future is determined by ‘’high quality and calibre of youth’’ and not defined by where they come.

According to Nahas the party is divided along ‘’generational differences, cultural particularity, slate politics, tribal identities and regionalism’’. It seems that the former PM is still stuck in the past, where he fought on his own slate and fell on the dagger in his fight against Geingob.

Geingob on the other hand seemed to have moved on and is now embracing and talking easily about generational transformation politics, even to the extent of differing with some of his senior leaders on Helmut Amendments to the Swapo constitution.
On youth empowerment, the Swapo Party Youth League Secretary Ephraim Nekongo in an interview with the Windhoek Observer last week in no uncertain terms said that the youth will be coming to the policy conference to influence decisions in the best interest of the youth, which would include the accelerated youth transition into the Swapo Party leadership positions.

The party it seems is ready to infuse or introduce the youth into leadership positions in the mother body and other decision making structures of the government. For this, the party must be applauded to take this leap and for being ready for change. But, as they say the ‘proof of pudding is in the eating’, so let us wait for the outcome of the conference.

The only eligibility to leadership in Swapo, according to Geingob is ‘’aptitude and appetite for hard work’’ and not age or gender identity.

The policy conference is also set to interrogate the (in)famous Helmut Amendments that put stringent qualification criteria for the top four positions of the party.

SPYL leader in the interview with this publication recently said that the conference will not have the luxury of time ‘’to entertain changes aimed at favouring certain individuals because someone feels they need to be there’’. Helmut Amendments seem only to favour two candidates namely Prime Minister, Saara Kuukongelwa Amadhila and her deputy, Netumbo Nandi Ndaitwa. The two have been blocking any possible discussion or removal of the contentious amendments. In some circles in the ruling party they are seen as anti-progress and delaying the ascendance of youth to leadership positions. Resisting change in the party and telling the nation that ‘’Swapo will rule forever’’ or until Jesus comes are signs of empire politics. Remember that it was popularly said that the ‘’Sun would never set on the British Empire’’, but today only loosely connected Commonwealth exists with very little influence in international affairs.
Lest, you want Swapo’s influence in the country to wane or the ‘sun to set on it’, start thinking of steering the party to ‘’march into the future with confidence and a common purpose in the spirit of true comradeship and common good’’, to borrow from Nahas, and not engage in useless rhetoric, we will advice Saara.

By Observer