Youths are historical torchbearers of freedom

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by Dr Charles Mubita

Mahatma Gandhi, Gamal Adbel Nasser Hussein, Vladmir Lenin, Muammar Gaddafi, Fidel Castro, Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, Nelson Mandela; and here at home Hosea Kutako, Hendrik Witbooi, Sam Nujoma, Brendan Kangongolo, Herman Toivo ya Toivo, were all youths in their thirties and twenties and bore the brunt of the liberation struggle, while the majority of the old generation were often relegated to the status of reluctant followers or spectators in the political struggle.

The militancy of Namibian youths, under the leadership of the indefatigable Sam Nujoma, and comprising of, among others, Hifikepunye Pohamba, Hage Geingob, and Ya Toivo led to the formation of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia and the launch of the military struggle. PLAN fighters, from the 1960s up to independence were predominantly youths of less than 35 years. It was the youths who led the struggle inside the country. Namibian youths changed the face of the national liberation struggle. By choosing to ignore these historical facts are we not staring political déjà vu in the face?

It has come to pass that the youths of the 19th century and early 20th century had a better vision than the proverbial sitting wise men. Indeed, if the Mahareros, Witboois, Nujomas, Pohambas, Kangongolos, Ya Toivos, Geingobs and others had wavered in the pursuance of a free and independent Namibia, by all means necessary, we would still be under colonial subjugation. Had they listened and taken the advice of the majority of the sitting wise men; we would be living in a banana republic, or are we?

Yes, the youths of yesteryear deserve respect from the youths of today. They deserve recognition and salutation for their role in bringing freedom and independence to Namibia. They are the shelter under which the youths should find comfort, tutelage, encouragement and wisdom. After all, in their own words, “the future belongs to the new generation, the youths”. Surely, you cannot bequeath the future to a generation without being exemplary. Just like the youths of the 1960s to 1980s, these youths need to be nurtured, tutored and moulded into strong future leaders. The nurturing should be devoid of vilification, threats or intimidation.

Admittedly, the youths of today are raising issues of national importance, albeit in ways that are unconventional. No surprises there, because that is the nature of the youths. Straightjacket organisation has never been the formula followed by youths anywhere. Trial and error, and learning the hard way has always been the norm.
The question being raised is about land.

Now that today’s youths are demanding a piece of land to shelter themselves and their families, we are seeing our political history replaying itself. This time, however, it is the liberators against the liberated. At the heart of it all is an age-old common denominator – the land, the cornerstone of the liberation struggle. At the centre of it is greed and corruption. At the end of it are landless, homeless, inflated-rent-payers; the majority of whom are youths.

The timing, manner, platform and methods being used by the youth in demanding land might seem suspicious, irrational or confrontational. Nonetheless, that does not reduce the seriousness of the issue, and the sitting wise men should give guidance and clear responses. The temerity and impudence of attacking personalities, rather than the issues raised is worrisome. The questions that need to be addressed are: did Namibians get back “their land” after political independence? If so, why ask for land now? If not, why refuse Namibians from asking for what their forefathers fought for?

This is not the time to shy away from addressing the land issue, or to hide into some political holier-than-thou cocoons. If the system is broken, it should be fixed. Ignoring it and sweeping it under the carpet will be too costly in the future.
Civil disorder stems from ignoring the plight of societies, no matter how insignificant in number the society might be.

If we are to be inclusive, then surely it should be illegal to put the interests of the system above the rights and protection of all Namibians, including the youths. Upholding youths’ rights is not only a matter of child protection; it is equally about access to justice, addressing poverty and the state of our democracy. We cannot allow the next generation to effectively become disenfranchised through the silent withdrawal of their rights. Allow them space to express themselves on national issues. Listen to them, support them and guide them when they go astray.

*Dr Charles Mubita holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of Southern California.

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