National Youth Council of Namibia At 20 – a Legacy to Celebrate [opinion]

IN APRIL 1994 at the University of Namibia, a national conference of youth was called under the able leadership of Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana as the first minister of youth in independent Namibia and a few focused and determined youth and students formations such as Nanso, religious youth groupings, Swapo Youth League and many others.

This was the platform that resulted in the resolutions to form what is today known as the National Youth Council of Namibia (NYC).

Its objective was and today still is to identify and address the myriad of economic, social and political challenges facing young people in the country, working together with government, civil and international bodies and the private sector.

During that time the youth had played their role during the struggle after independence the discussion was how to go about developing the country or how government was going to engage the disenfranchised and diverse youth on matters that concern them. The only way to do this was under one umbrella body that caters for all the youth.

The formation of the National Youth Council was visionary, directive and a very welcomed move. The government under the ministry of youth and sports endorsed it and very soon started to develop programmes to make the institution functional.

The institution was to be non-governmental, free from government influence and operate like a semi parastatal albeit receiving funding from government. The youth at the time demanded autonomy and non-interference from government and rightly so as its membership and structures were diverse and made up of political party youth leagues, traditional and cultural youth formations, sports and education bodies and other civil organizations.

Contestation for control and leadership of the organisation grew and although Swapo Party Youth League has always had a majority in the top leadership of the organisation all youth bodies were represented in the structures.

The first secretary-general of the NYC was Phanuel LKaapama, a renowned political commentator and lecturer at the University of Namibia. He was replaced by Pohamba Shifeta (MP) followed by Juliet Kavetuna (MP), who was in turn followed by Mandela Kapere as Executive Chairman.

Many political, corporate and social leaders have come from the ranks and file of the NYC.

The organisation has undergone numerous changes in its structures and content over the years, the most notable in 2009, when, after a lengthy process of consultations and studies, a new law was formulated. Thus the revamped NYC as it is today was established by an act of parliament, Act no 3 of 2009. The first Board of Directors was inaugurated in 2011 by then minister of youth Kazenambo Kazenambo (MP).

The changes were necessary at the time and driven by what was happening in the youth sector all over the world: on the African continent the AU member states have started to ratify and adopt the African Youth Charter, following the declaration of the African Youth decade 2009-2018 SADC member states were looking at developing a protocol dealing with youth and the establishment of SADC Youth Union the United Nations was putting more emphasis on youth employment and, at the same time, the World Assembly of Youth to which NYC is a member got a consultative status at UN. Finally the youth’s voice and work were being professionalised the world over.

Over the years, NYC has grown to truly become a youth umbrella body, which caters for and represents the entire youth segments of the Namibian population regardless of their social standing, political affiliation and economic status. This is the only authentic institution of its kind in Namibia.

Government funding for the organisation has grown satisfactorily although not yet enough if you consider the challenges the organisation faces. NYC’s visibility in the country has increased as it has got functional regional offices at all multi-purpose youth resource centres in Namibia. Corporate partners have gained more confidence in partnering with the youth, the marginalised and vulnerable youth are more represented in leadership across the board, institutional capacity and governance issues are continuously improved and relations with the government of the day are excellent. Most of all, all affiliates and members are served in the best possible ways.

When our time at the institution come to an end, we will leave an institution and legacy behind that says, We have been part of a formation to which we have in our small and humble way made a contribution to, as Board members representing the General Assembly and the entire rank and file of NYC, we have laid the foundation as the 1st ever Board of Directors. We have transformed our challenges into opportunities and help created a ger, more respectable and delivering institution which responds to the needs of the Namibian youth. We have mobilised the necessary resources for the institution to carry out its role at the highest level as well as operate in a sustainable manner.

Going forward, we wish the National Youth Council of Namibia a happy 20th anniversary and many years of existence. As the saying goes “People will come and go but the institution will remain, thus no individual can be bigger than the organisation”.

Finally, we would like to quote from Frantz Fanon’s “The Wretched of the earth”: “Each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity.”

We have done our part and wish the next generation of youth leaders another great 20 years.

Sydney !Ganeb and Mandela Kapere are respectively board member and Executive Chairman of the National Youth Council of Namibia and serve on the Central Committee of the Swapo Party Youth League.

Source : The Namibian