New Era journalist Kuzeeko Tjitemisa (KT) this week caught up with Swapo Youth League (SPYL) secretary Ephraim Nekongo (EN) to discuss, among others, the youth league’s achievements, its stance on contemporary issues such as gender-based violence, youth unemployment and the legalisation of abortion, which is currently under discussion in parliament.
KT: It has been four years since you were elected as SPYL leader. What can you highlight as some of your achievements?
EN: I must emphasise that the SPYL operated as a collaborative force. Having said that, in 2017, we adopted the motto “speak less, do more”.
As far as I’m concerned, we’ve done rather well under that motto.
In the same year, the SPYL delegated six candidates to vie for positions on the party’s central committee, all of whom were elected to serve on the party’s highest decision-making body.
Besides that, the SPYL has been advocating for agricultural transformation to improve food security and create decent sustainable employment for our people, to the extent that we have even assisted our fellow youth in setting up irrigation systems. We have donated chicks for small-scale poultry production, and have been proactive in facilitating agricultural training. We have also facilitated the donation of tables and chairs to our rural schools.
We have been proactive in advocating for the government to provide more resources to our students through the NSFAF; we have been at the forefront of advocating for the government to absorb nurses and teachers; we have been advocating for the government to create programmes to provide job opportunities to our young people, such as skills-based financing for young artisans at the DBN; and we will continue to advocate for targeted intervention programmes to create employment for our people.
We also delegated six members to contest at the Swapo party electoral college, and while we were unable to garner a large number of votes, I can say that given the fact that we competed among senior leaders who appeared to form a block vote, we performed admirably, though there is still room for improvement.
We had numerous critical engagements behind closed doors with a number of Cabinet ministers as well as our president, for example, on the establishment of the youth league’s national headquarters, the Namibia Investment Promotion Board (NIPB), the land conference, the party’s introspection meeting, and our participation in our structural engagements such as the central committee.
Under the current leadership of the SPYL, a large number of energetic young people participated in the regional councils and local authority elections, in which young leaders serving in the structures of the SPYL were victorious and are now serving the people as regional councillors and local authority councillors. That is an enormous accomplishment.
Moreover, I must take this opportunity to inform you that the SPYL continues to be the militant transmitting belt of the party’s ideology, policies and programmes in the processes of nation-building.
As a result, our role and objectives have been clearly defined, and we continue to advocate for the implementation of the party manifesto without fear or favour because we have signed a contract with the Namibian people and the party, and as a result, we can continue to sing the implementations without fear or favour.
KT: In your acceptance speech, you vowed to revamp the youth league and make it great again. However, this seems not to have been the case. Actually, the youth league seems to have gone onto a downward trajectory. Why is it the case?
EN: Despite the fact that the SPYL had historically been at odds with a number of senior leaders, resulting in suspensions, and in some cases legal action, I believe it was critical under my leadership to strengthen the relationship between the SPYL and the senior leadership.
During my tenure as SPYL secretary, I saw it as my responsibility to do so. Healthy relationships, I believe, produce beneficial outcomes.
That has occurred. Nevertheless, as you pointed out, there have been difficulties in utilising that healthy relationship to achieve the desired goals.
I must also point out that the SPYL of yesterday before independence and the SPYL of today after independence are two entirely different organisations.
Today, Swapo is the party that has formed the government, and all ministers are running on Swapo tickets. So, our approach should be consultative, which is exactly what we have been doing.
Yes, I must admit that the approach has its own set of challenges because some leaders and ministers use their positions as if they were their own, and if you correct them, they will take it personally, making the consultative meetings uncomfortable.
I do not believe that the SPYL has entered a downward trajectory. Rather, we would say that the SPYL has been challenged since there are certain stakeholders who appear to be undermining the authority and aims of the SPYL, and as a result, they were unable to support the SPYL.
The party’s ideology, policies and programmes continue to be transmitted through a revolutionary and energetic transmission belt, known as the SPYL.
KT: The youth league congress is set for next August. You are not eligible to stand. Who are you rooting for this time around?
EN: My eligibility to run for office is essentially irrelevant at this point, I am convinced. For the time being, it makes no difference who I am pulling for. When the appropriate moment comes, I will react to your question.
KT: One of the challenges faced by the youth in this country is the issue of unemployment. What is SPYL’s stance on this important issue?
EN: Yes, it is true that younger people are the ones at a painful receiving end, and it requires government’s deliberate intervention to fight the escalating youth unemployment in our country.
We have been saying that the existing government MSME funds and schemes, in various offices, ministries, agencies (OMAs) should be consolidated into a single fund and to capitalise the designated DFI for MSME development at an affordable cost of funding for previously disadvantaged Namibians in general and the youth in particular, and we are still re-emphasising that.
We propose that, let us accelerate the establishment of an agricultural development fund to finance agro-entrepreneurs. Agriculture will unlock the potential of Namibia; this sector employs every profession almost.
The data of what we import will tell you the potential. There are solutions; we extended willingness to all those who are responsible in case they need our inputs.
We have good programmes with good intentions. The problem is how they are structured, and the implementation. The unfortunate reality is that if youth unemployment is not handled immediately, it will have far-reaching consequences for everyone.
As a country, we are experiencing a severe situation with rising unemployment, and the sooner we as key stakeholders work together to implement all proposed initiatives, the better off we will be in our efforts to solve unemployment in Namibia.
The SPYL is very worried about unemployment since it has a detrimental effect on our youth and makes their lives intolerable.
KT: Another hot topic is the legalisation of abortion. What is your stance on this?
EN: It is very sad that some people have time to debate and talk about such issues. These issues are not of serious concern now. At one point, Swapo must direct and call people to order.
We have unemployment and housing crises, and they are not making those a priority? What is wrong with us? The SPYL did not really have time to interrogate that matter due to pressing critical matters.
KT: Earlier this year, you equated homosexuality to “satanic and demonic” activities. What is SPYL’s stance on equal rights for sexual minorities?
As SPYL, our position remains unchanged: homosexuality is “satanic and demonic.”
Those who are on Swapo tickets must reject this satanic discourse. Instead, let us address unemployment, housing, health, potable water for our people and roads infrastructure, amongst other issues.
What are we going to tell our citizens in 2024? Are we going to tell them that we spent time discussing homosexuality?
KT: Your party and individuals in the party such as yourself have been accused of receiving Fishrot money. How have these allegations impacted on your credibility, and what do you think will the electorate make of your party’s proximity to stolen money?
EN: The so-called Fishrot is currently before the court. In addition, at one time, the party organised a press conference to address issues brought by your questions.
KT: Youth league members seem to have been overlooked for Parliamentary and other positions in favour of Nanso members. How have you addressed this, and is it still worth joining the SPYL if young people from other organisations are preferred for deployment?
EN: That notion has been receiving serious attention from the structure I lead and from the public at large. Maybe I must just say that young people must be excited in joining the SPYL to learn and contribute to the growth of the party and Namibia in any way they can.
I don’t think joining the SPYL on the expectation of deployment should be the case. The love and the passion should really be the basis of being a SPYL member. Obviously, transition is imminent.
KT: President Hage Geingob recently called on graduates to become employers with their degrees and that government isn’t God, while on the same day reappointing a 65-year-old as Bank of Namibia Governor. How do you react to these contradictions, and what do you tell young people who are frustrated by unemployment?
EN: If we are to interpret what is meant correctly, I would like us to do so. Some misunderstandings are leading to confusion among our citizens. President Hage Geingob did not say what you are paraphrasing above, and I believe he meant something else entirely.
In my opinion, the President is saying that we should use our degrees, master’s degrees and doctoral degrees to create jobs rather than relying just on GRN. As a business owner, I am well-aware of the difficulties associated with raising funding.
It relates back to my previous observations about youth unemployment in general. As GRN, we must significantly increase the number of vehicles that enable young people to enter the workforce, as President Hage Geingob stated.
As long as the current business environment is improved, young innovative Namibians will prosper in terms of job creation, I believe.
KT: Who would the SPYL support as Swapo’s next presidential candidate?
EN: The party has policies in place regarding the selection of candidates for the position of President. Additionally, the SPYL serves as the militant transmission belt for the party’s ideology, policies and programmes.
That being stated, after the Swapo party has completed its processes in response to the query made, the SPYL will issue a formal statement in accordance with the party’s protocols, as is customary.