The National Youth Council (NYC) was established by Cabinet resolution in 1994, as a platform for young people to aid and complement Government in youth development and empowerment matters.
However, the council has most of the times treaded a bumpy road and at times serious reservations have been raised about whether the youth body could really fulfill its mandate.
Mandela Kapere was elected recently to steer the ship in an acting capacity. New Era journalist John Ekongo solicited the views and opinions of Kapere on the future of the NYC.
JE: There are some quarters and members of the public who feel that the NYC has been operating with too much political inclinations and has aligned itself towards political patronage. To what extent would you say that this is the adherence of the NYC?
MK: Well it is regrettable that people have this opinion and I say this while expressing that regret I also in the same vein wish to dismiss such a notion.
I say this for the following reasons – one, NYC is a voluntary based member organisation, and it is an organisation based on members of youth organisations. Two, each organisation constitutes one element, one member of each youth organisation of the youth council.
You go to the RC of the NYC and each youth organisation has one vote, so too each region. There is no organisation that has more than one vote. Now of course how they are organized is another issue.
There are some organisations that are extremely well organized. You talk of course of your scout movement, you can talk of course of your student organisation NANSO, you can talk of the Young Women’s Christian Association and some youth leagues of political parties.
This organisations are extremely well networked and well organized. So their influence within the general youth sector is sometimes quite strong. But within the NYC each member organisation constitutes only one vote per member entity.
JE: Obviously with the envisaged new National Youth Council Bill – what are some of the likeliest things to change in the current NYC?
MK: Well of course, the mandate will have to broaden; we expect additional authority to be able to deal with the youth development challenges that the country faces. I think that given that we now have the political support and political space in which to operate, we need to use it in a responsible and patriotic forward-looking manner.
By this I mean we need to begin to become concerned with the state of young people that have been outside of the mainstream of youth development activities. Here we are talking about young women, differently abled young people, minority youth and we are talking of rural youth and the formerly neglected youth
We seriously need to shift focus to this young people. And in so doing we will have to strengthen our capacity to deal with economic issues from a youth perspective, because the next big challenge for young people while we continue to deal with the issue of education, is economic reform. We believe in a broad-based economic empowerment of the youth as being the second pillar of the youth development sector.
JE: Since NYC was established, what would you say has been its most notable contributions to youth development and which major highlights can the NYC claim to have achieved?
MK: Well I mean the NYC came from scratch to be an organisation in Namibia that can today influence policy, that can today make its voice heard and key people will take note thereof. It is an organisation that has extensive networks amongst young people and youth organisations. It is an organisation that has brought together diverse young people under one umbrella organisation.
The NYC has several successes amongst many that I think are notable. One is the issue of enterprise development – there is still a long way to go for the issue of youth enterprise development, but the fact that we were one of the first organisations to start talking about enterprise and small businesses and alternative livelihoods, is a history of which the youth council should remain proud.
It is one of the only institutions of its kind that you can say has a genuine empowerment approach for young women. We have a quota system in our structure to make sure that women development is advanced.
These are notable successes. We are now starting with a credit scheme for young people in business, replacing the grant scheme, which was not viable and sustainable.
We have done a lot also in developing the leadership particularly youth leadership in the country. The are so many young people that have come through the various leadership courses and have received exposure in the various aspects of youth development and empowerment.
JE: Given that you came on board only recently to the helm of NYC, what is your vision with respect to the mandate of the NYC?
MK: Well I am not new to the NYC. I might look young to you but I have been involved in youth development sectors at least for 13 years – starting with amongst others the Swakopmund Junior Town Council, NANSO, and SWAPO Party Youth League.
So I have been involved in the youth development aspect for a while. I have been a member of the National Executive Committee of the NYC since 2001 and it is only the last two or three years that I have not been directly involved with the NYC, but did so via the Pan African Youth Movement in Algeria, where I was posted for a while.
Given that, there is no Mandela Kapere vision of the National Youth Council in the NYC. What we have is a youth development approach and constant inputs from the youth organisation at platforms such as the RC and through the executive committee. We don’t believe in individualistic visions, but what we have is a development consensus contributed by all young people.
But since you ask, what I bring is the personal approach that focuses on people centered development and the broad interest of the country based on extensive consultations and inclusion.
JE: Mandela, it was a total privilege talking to you. Thank you for taking time off your busy schedule for this interview.