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On 8th july 2011, New Era's Toivo Ndjebela interview with
Dr. Elijah Ngurare, Secretary of Swapo Party Youth League:



 

 

 

 

 

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    What are the highlights of your tenure as SPYL secretary
    EN: I was elected at the 4th Congress of SPYL in August 2007 together with other members of the Central Committee of SPYL with a clear mandate to advocate for youth empowerment and development in keeping with the SPYL Constitution as well as Future and Present Tasks of SPYL.
    This was the Constitutional mandate that we as SPYL members and leaders are advocating and vigorously promoting to ensure speedy implementation by the SWAPO Party government. The calls for youth empowerment and development,  rural development as well as genuine economic empowerment to our people will remain a priority above all other priorities, hence our consistency in highlighting the attainment of these goals. In particular as can be recalled from my acceptance speech in 2007, we identified and declared the following basic needs as essential for the poor urban dwellers and rural areas: provision of affordable and clean water, electricity and toilets for our people to live a dignified way of life.
    Our Congress also strongly called on the SWAPO Party Government to expedite the enactment of a truly Namibian Policy on Black Economic Empowerment as a matter of urgency. Congress further called for special programmes to be developed by Government ministries geared towards job creation and curbing youth unemployment. It has also been heartening to notice the groundswell of support that SPYL has generated through Politainment where we have closely worked with our local musicians to campaign for the SWAPO Party in the 2009 Presidential and National Assembly Elections. I am proud to say that the youth in entertainment industry responded positively and made a great impact to their fellow youth country-wide.
    In this regard, all our collective actions and energy are therefore geared towards the attainment and actualization of the above.

    What is the secret behind the militancy and fearlessness of the SPYL under your leadership?

    EN: There is no secret really; it is rather a constitutional mandate for SPYL to be radical, militant and revolutionary in being the constitutional transmission belt of the SWAPO Party policies, ideology and programmes. It must also be clear that SPYL’s allegiance is to the SWAPO Party Aims and Objectives as well as Political Programme and its SPYL’s own constitution. These documents spell out our role as leaders and members of SPYL as well as our rights and obligations as one of the three constitutional wings of the SWAPO Party. It does not create a section in the constitution to be ‘yes man’ just for the sake of it; we must debate and engage issues without fear or favour. In so doing we do not challenge any authority, but simply demand the implementation of decisions taken by the Congress (the highest decision making body in the SWAPO-Party) and we do so in accordance with the democratic rights conferred and spelled out by relevant articles of the SWAPO-Party constitution. We cannot shy away from our responsibility and constitutional mandate entrusted upon us by the SWAPO Party Youth League.
    You would have seen that the active departments of the SWAPO Party Youth League fearlessly articulated their constitutional mandates. There have been healthy disagreement and friendly agreements along the way. For example we took issue with the fact that some Government Ministries/Offices/Agencies were merely paying lip service to the fundamental needs of our electorate and blaming it on policies etc. This does not mean we are disrespectful towards those Government institutions, but merely holding them accountable to what the electorate expected from them. Constructive criticism is one the values acknowledged as healthy essential by the SWAPO Party constitution.  
    In 2008, the President initiated a platform at State House wherein ourselves as SPYL and the NUNW were regularly meeting to discuss our concerns. We did not agree all the time, but ultimately our position has been “the resources of Namibia must benefit all our people” especially the youth and those in poor urban and rural areas. Realistically throughout the world, youth and elders view the world differently; this reality also applies to Namibia.   However the approach to bridge the gap if it takes into consideration the legitimate interests or concern, this could lead to a harmonious relation between the youth and elders. In the SWAPO-Party we have internal way of ironing out differences, which is normal in every human relation. As you will remember on 23 October 2008, we had the first ever meeting between the Politburo of SWAPO Party and the National Executive Committee members of the SWAPO Party Youth League. This historic platform created an opportunity for us to engage openly and frankly on national issues.

    What are some of the notable challenges you experienced at SPYL secretary

    EN: I was adequately advised upon resuming Office that there would be a lot of challenges and so many things would be thrown at me, however I must never compromise on principles. This advice has nurtured me throughout and will continue to nurture and guide me for the rest of my life. In the beginning of my tenure, the misconception some people had was the notion that as Secretary of SPYL I was campaigning to go to parliament. The mistaken perception people make is that when you occupy a political position is because you want to become somebody in government. I made this point clear in the Central Committee of SWAPO Party 2008 that that perception was wrong and I must be removed from any parliamentary list. I am currently the only Wing Secretary of SWAPO who is fulltime at the Headquarters and not working in Government, this was by choice. In the final analysis, let us follow the SWAPO Constitution and principles, whether you operate at a Government Ministry, Parliament or at the Party Headquarters within the parameters of principles and objectives we have promised to pursue. 
    Challenges or even disagreements are part of life, but we must remember that at any point in history, the youth played a critical role. That continuity must be there all the time, after all, SWAPO was formed by progressive young people who thought enough was enough. They rose to the occasion. They rose to the challenge of the time. Nobody stood in their path. The youth of today have an historic responsibility to ensure that Namibia is economically independent. That we will fight for, come what may. Our resources are God-given for us to better our lives as a nation. We must have a stake in what Namibia produces. The steps taken by our SWAPO Party government through the Minister of Mines and Energy must be applauded.
    Other ministries and government agencies should emulate. We as the youth will continue to fight for economic emancipation. We want to be empowered. These are our resources. Why is it that when we talk about our resources, it is someone in London or Washington who becomes noisiest? Is that what you call globalization? We have no business asking for what is not ours. We know what belongs to us, and that we will fight. We owe nobody an apology to fight for what belongs to us.
    We cannot standby and watch our resources being shipped out as raw material to enrich others in Europe and the USA. We have stepped on some toes as we demand that Namibia's natural resources should benefit Namibians first. In doing so, you notice that those who were economically advantaged by the apartheid colonial regime and some modern elites (black and white) are the first to shout the loudest, “no, don't do that. You are scaring investors.”
    Your tenure is ending next year: What’s next?

    EN: The structures of SPYL will decide what is next. I am not unaware of the expenses being incurred by those who regard me as a “stumbling block”. Our emphasis will continue to be the supremacy of Party structures and not the interests and ambitions of individuals. In this respect, I would encourage all progressive young people of our society to join SPYL and be active members in Sections, Branches, District, Regions, National Executive and Central Committee of SPYL. At all times, they must remember that Party structures are more important and must be nurtured to outlive us. Let us be mindful that to be a member and leader of SPYL must never be a decoration or mere window dressing or a springboard to a position in government rather it is and must be a calling to service; to serve the ideals of Solidarity, Freedom and Justice, nothing more and nothing less. We must be extra-vigilant against ‘bubble-gum syndrome’: just as a bubble-gum is usually chewed for its sweetness thereafter it is spat out, the youth must guard against the tendency of being used for political interests of individuals whose interest is detrimental to the youth agenda of “youth empowerment and development”.

    What is your view on the issue of youth empowerment in the country
    EN: This is the nucleus of our daily preoccupation. When we have consistently spoken about striving for “youth empowerment, rural development and genuine economic empowerment in all 107 Constituencies and 13 Regions” during the election campaigns we meant exactly the need to see practical and sustainable indications of youth empowerment in the country. The expectation of this campaign is to see the youth having skills and providing labour and above all to be having the necessary capital to participate in the ownership and control of the means of production. The participation of the youth in wealth creation is fundamental to the success and attainment of economic independence. Our SWAPO Party Government has continued to invest massively in education in order to train our young people albeit challenges remain. In terms of the infusion of youth indecision making, many youth are now regional and local authority councillors, MPs, while many are public servants etc. But a lot still need to be done.
    On a daily basis I am made aware of young people with exceptional talents and who do not need favours from government but merely support to actualize their goals and dreams. There are graduates without jobs from UNAM, Polytechnic of Namibia, IUM and other institutions of higher learning that are on the street with skills. In my discussions with both the President and Prime Minister, I have observed that there is a political will in them to assist the youth in order to reduce unemployment etc, however the challenge is how to implement these good intentions. We have in the past suggested that each Ministry should have a Youth Desk in order to speed up the implementation of youth empowerment and development agenda.
    While at this point, I must appreciate those companies and individual Ministers who have been willing to engage us on youth empowerment and development. What we must discourage is the tendency where Ministries or politicians make lip service to the real challenges facing our youth. The allocation of N$14.9 billion towards job creation is commendable and the President is explicit in his introduction that he wants this to benefit the youth. By extension, we would suggest that every constituency should get an allocation from this budget and fund the projects identified by the youth themselves throughout the region for the next three years. Further, an effort must be made to fund and support existing youth businesses. In other words, we must discourage the temptation to play academic tricks with the hopes and expectations of our unemployed youth. What is needed is implementation, implementation and implementation of TIPEEG.

    What are your views on various youth groupings demanding jobs from government
    EN: The youth are not the only ones who demanded jobs from government, prior to that there were former combatants (elders) who marched to demand jobs. While not all may have gotten such jobs some did get the jobs. It is logical to expect that the youth born in exile, whatever justifications, also joined the same to demonstrate and demand jobs. In recent months, some youth born inside the country have also been demonstrating to demand jobs. My view is that the real challenge is about lack of employment opportunities in general. I am also aware that the children of the liberation struggle have caused me much condemnation including from my senior leaders in the Party. I remain firm on the view that if government implements the SWAPO Party Election Manifesto without fail, then we shall have addressed the challenge half way and the TIPEEG programme mentioned above is part of what the SWAPO Party Election Manifesto intended in terms of job creation with specific emphasis on the unemployed youth (those whose parents were in exile and those whose parents were inside the country).

    The unemployment situation in the country: what is the root cause?

    EN: As I was indicating above, unemployment will be curtailed if we address the great question of skilling our youth with education and provide them with the necessary capital to own and control the means of production. Youth are very innovative, all what we need to do is to create a platform that would enable them to engage in creative and sustainable economic activities which would ultimately empower them to be able to compete with their counterparts worldwide.   We have champions of hard work in our society that the youth can emulate in order to fight unemployment, hunger, disease and ignorance. This include our Founding President, Dr Sam Nujoma, Dr. Hifikepunye Pohamba, Dr. Frans Indongo, Ben Zaaruka, Hagen Zimmerman, Dr. Christina Swarts-Opperman, Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun, Sydney Martin, Aaron Mushimba, Sven Thieme and many other patriotic and hard working Namibians.

    Your views on youth and general politics in the country

    EN: The Namibian youth especially members and leaders of SPYL must remain patriotically stubborn in pursuit of the ideals of Solidarity, Freedom and Justice. This can only happen if they are active in the structures of SPYL and of the SWAPO Party of Namibia. The ideals of SWAPO Party are neither genetic nor hereditary, the current generation of youth and generations yet to be born must take the torch to assert their rights and demands for a Namibia that delivers and reflects on their aspirations and expectations.

    As regards to politics in general, it remains my view that unless all those who are involved in politics are in it to serve the interest of the people and not personal interest, Namibia shall remain an oasis of peace, stability and economic prosperity. The people of Namibia voted for the SWAPO Party and provided it with the mandate of governance to deliver on the provisions of the Election Manifesto. We are not in a coalition government either. That is to say those who are in the opposition should not wallow in the illusion that their only lifeblood is oppose and oppose until the second coming of Jesus, rather they must complement the vision of the ruling party in government as it serves the Namibian people to reach the goals of Vision 2030. The youth in opposition parties should also be aware that Youth Empowerment and Development as advocated by SPYL is also in the interest of all Namibian youth including them. Let us collectively address the bread and butter issues facing the youth of our country.

    What happened to the MCA-Etosha saga?

    EN: The MCA can be described as a long-term US Foreign Policy strategy aimed at planting dependency in receiving States while the economic interest of the USA find a fertile and sustainable ground from ‘beggars’ like us. We thank those patriots within government who alerted us about the MCA in relation to Etosha and other provisions in the so-called compact, which had rendered the Namibian laws irrelevant. We are told that amendments were made thereto and everything is now fine. What is clear is that Etosha has the potential for untapped oil and gas which the USA and its allies is interested to have control over.
    At a time when people are advocating sustainable utilization of resources, the US wants a stake in a place that is very strategic to Namibia in terms of its wildlife survival and conservation efforts. Tourism is one of economic mainstay, if we mortgage the Etosha National Park to the Americans now, we will not be able to retrieve it back, remember Guantanamo Bay in Cuba? The mere fact that Etosha is a National Park is point that we have to understand that it is exclusively for national interest. How can we share national interests with another country?  If we slumber in our vigilance, there would come a time in future where the succeeding generations will learn the extinction of the wildlife in the same way we reading about the dinosaurs that once roamed the earth. Time will tell what the long-term benefit to Namibia this MCA will be and posterity shall be our judge.