By Dr. Elijah Ngurare
RECENTLY a lot has been written in the media about Namibia’s participation in the 18th World Festival of Youth and Students currently underway in Quito, Ecuador, South America. The reports have relied on what is termed ‘insiders’, ‘reliable sources’, ‘senior officials’, ‘minutes’ etc.
One cannot quarrel with the media, after all, it was information taken to them that they publish or be it embellished for maximum advertisement of their newspapers. The concentration of the ‘willing informers’ was to influence the cancelation of Namibia’s participation on the basis of cost and by extension politics. They have also been at pains to invade the unsuspecting moral high ground of caring for the victims of drought and poverty at home. This article is being written with three objectives, including the above, but most importantly to inform the reading public on the important facts conveniently omitted in the media reports. To begin with, the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) is a member, in good standing, of the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) and has been participating in its festivals, the latest being in December 2010 in the Republic of South Africa.
The WFDY consists of 42 organisations and 27 countries, including SPYL and by extension Namibia. The WDFY was founded on 10 November 1945 during the World Youth Conference held shortly after the Second World War. This historic conference was convened at the initiative of the World Youth Council. The latter was formed during the World War II to fight against fascism by the youth of the allied countries and brought together, for the first time in the history of the international youth movement, representatives of more than 30 million young people of different political ideologies and religious beliefs from 63 nations. The World Youth Conference further adopted a pledge for peace, which provided inter alia and pledged “…that they shall remember this unity forged in this month, November 1945 Not only today, not only this week, this year, but always to build the unity of youth of the world to confirm the unity of all youth and to salute our comrades who have died-and pledge the word that skilful hands, keen brains and young enthusiasm shall never be wasted in war.”
Subsequently, the General Council of the World Federation of Democratic Youth established the World Festival of Youth and Students (WFYS), held every four years, as an international gathering that brings together thousands of youths from around the world under the banner of the fight against imperialism. It provides an opportunity to discuss, share experiences and learn about socio-economic struggles around the world. As indicated above, this year the 18th World Festival of Youth and Students is being held in Quito, Ecuador this week under the Theme “Youth Unite Against Imperialism for the World of Peace, Solidarity and Social Transformation.” Since independence, Namibian young people have attended all festivals including Cuba, Algeria, Venezuela, South Africa and now Ecuador, of which the largest convener contingent was to the 14th WYSF in Cuba, to which Namibia took a delegation of 300 youths.
Equally, before independence, leaders of the Swapo Youth League also attended, hence the inclusion in these delegations of graduates of SPYL. This platform of political education and expression of Namibian youth are few and far in between. Participation in the World Youth and Student Festival is one such effort that presents a once in a lifetime opportunity for progressive youths in Namibia to consolidate and strengthen their political ideological beliefs through interaction with youths having similar political aspirations around the world. It is our submission that such efforts are categorically imperative in securing the future of our motherland under the banner of One Namibia, One Nation.
It is on this basis that we in the Swapo Party Youth League felt the patriotic need to extend an invitation to the entire broad youth development community in Namibia to attend the festival, inclusive of youth organizations with religious, sport, business, health and political preoccupations, including youths from opposition parties as well as youths with disabilities. The planning and organizing process was carried out by the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture together with National Youth Service, National Youth Council and the Swapo Party Youth League constituting a National Preparatory Committee. The focal persons who have worked hard in this process are Alma Otto (ministry), Samuel Aochomab (NYC), Johanna Kambala (NYS) and Eddie Kafita (SPYL). Comrade Kafita serves on all the governance structures of the WFDY Preparatory Committee of 2013, namely, the Coordinating Council and the International Preparatory Committee. This is a notable achievement for Namibia that must not be understated considering that members of the Coordinating Council are elected by the General Council from among its members.
In pursuance of the above, our advocacy is nationalism in all its manifestations. The members of the National Preparatory Committee mentioned above were tasked to ensure that Namibia is prepared this time around and to avoid at all cost the repeat of 2010 humiliation and suffering endured by our delegates in the RSA. This was the understanding we have operated on since then. However, the festival that was supposed to take place in 2014 was brought earlier with a year, and is therefore taking place this year. Naturally, this presented some budgetary challenges, because the line ministry vowed in 2010 to budget for the event come the 2014 festival. Thankfully the line minister Honourable Jerry Ekandjo and most of his team have been most understanding.
All member organisations were allocated various numbers of delegates, some as more as 3000 delegates. Namibia was allocated over 1000 delegates. For Namibia, this we found to be impossible and hence reduced the number significantly. Two options of funding were considered. Chartering a plane like most delegates are doing from various countries or booking through travel agencies. It turned out that chartering a plane was considerably cheaper. The first quotation for example of 100 youths produced a price of N$3.6 million whereas chartering a plane would be N$3.8 million, excluding parking fees in Ecuador. In this regard, Air Namibia was more generous and gave a lot of discounts hence choosing it as a mode of transport. Air Namibia must be an airline of choice for all Namibians, especially public servants and politicians. As for the payment, the National Youth Service paid for the trip and included in the Ecuador delegation are trainees from the National Youth Service.
Regrettably in the dissenting voices included those with utterances that the trip must not be allowed to succeed because Comrade Ekandjo was not their candidate. The trip has nothing to do with Comrade Ekandjo, it is about the youth sharing ideas. It is a pity that this sickening political immaturity is still within the heads of some of our people. Even if some in our society are addicted to sabotaging national initiatives, it is below the belt to do so on the basis of trivial and meaningless concoctions. There is no longer a necessity for this camp/group or supporters of this or that, all we should be striving for must be a uniform patriotic and national agenda of One Namibia, One Nation. The issue of cost may have merit, however let us challenge these modern ‘moral converts’ to examine in totality the argument that this money is a waste of resources. If that be so, let them ask the question just who is ordained to spend taxpayers money on travelling and who is not? We need to look at the broader picture and ask whether there a need for participation or not. Are MPs both ruling and opposition or public servants alone or heads of state institutions, but not the ordinary members of the electorate including the Namibian youth allowed to travel? So New York, Dubai or London and all their expensive hotels are only good for some and not for others? Just what is wrong to take a national airline full of representatives from all 14 regions and/or villagers from Okangwati or Kanono to go and learn a thing or two about the world beyond their habitual residences once after four years? While at it, can the moral coverts also inform the readership the budget in its entirety of subsistence and travelling expenses of
government just for 2013? It is our shared conviction that any investment in the education or training of Namibian youths is money well spent. Those who opposed this trip, we respect your freedom of objection, but so too you must object to all other trips undertaken by those who are opposing this trip of Namibian youths. No politician or civil servant travels outside Namibia and feed from the dustbin on a national mission, therefore why should the Namibian youth be expected to be treated so? For all the Namibian youths who travelled to Ecuador, we are proud of you and we want to plant the seed of hope in you so that whatever you learn from there, you will plant in all your villages, constituencies and regions. I finally want to thank the parents of all the Namibian youths who are in Ecuador for the permission granted for them to travel. I want to thank in particular H.E. Comrade President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Rt. Hon. Prime Minister, Dr. Hage Geingob and our Cabinet for supporting this historic trip. I also thank all the peace-loving Namibians who understand without hypocrisy that there is learning in travelling, especially for the nation’s youths. May God bless you all!
• Dr Elijah Ngurare is the Secretary of the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL).