The cusp of a new political dispensation is recently past. One would therefore imagine that all those who value progress have shifted into higher gear and, included, would be the Botswana Democratic Party Youth Wing. While I am not a politician and make no pretensions in that direction, I get the sense that the ruling party’s youth arm has been in hibernation particularly when it comes to advancing the youths’ multi-pronged agenda.
The BDP Youth Wing is akin to a limb, which even if it were to be severed, its absence would not have any effect whatsoever on the operations of the body. The force of Kenneth Dipholo’s submission, “Whither BDP Youths” in the Sunday Standard of 29 March 2008 on the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the BDP Youth Wing therefore cannot be ignored. I also perused the piece, “Response to Dipholo”, Mmegi of Wednesday 09 April 2008 by one M. Lesedi Dintwe which, while it appeared to dissent with Dipholo, the writer unwittingly or otherwise vindicates the view that the BDP Youth League is lying supine on some cold floor. Dintwe tellingly asserts that “This (his) article should not be misconstrued to excuse lack of participation in the public debate by BDP youths…”.
While I have never met Dipholo, I find it regrettable that whenever someone raises a matter, especially in an objective manner, they are quickly pilloried as being merely “oppositionist”. Such an argument does not hold good. The Spirit of Republicanism, which pervades the well meaning, should not be so belittled.
I, therefore, also turn the beam on the BDP Youth Wing, because unlike their counterparts, they are privileged to be at the centre of power and stand a better chance of influencing the Presidium on matters of public and international policy. If the youth wing took itself seriously it would also be more effective than the Botswana National Youth Council which has to navigate the maze of Government protocol and insufficient funding in its endeavour to advance the course of youth. They would also fill in the void created by University of Botswana students, who for the past decade have been content with preening themselves rather than playing a part in the realm of public discourse.
The youth of this country, even those who have stayed longer in school, face many challenges which include being exploited. Their abundance has now led to a situation where they are hired as temporary hands indefinitely and for a pittance because it is cheaper for organizations to do so. Related to this, is the problem of unemployment where many young people take years to find jobs long after leaving tertiary institutions. We have not been let in into the BDP Youth Wing leadership’s thinking on how these challenges may, at least, be ameliorated.
The high cost of borrowing funds also makes it difficult for the newly employed youth, a significant number of whom would like to get onto the property ladder rather than buying a car, to get financial assistance. What economic interventions do they think may be put in place especially for the benefit of youth? What is their assessment of the number of youth empowerment schemes that are in place?
One would also have expected to hear the BDP Youth Wing speak out on the issue of school fees which has led to a number of children being turned away because their parents, some of whom are destitute and illiterate, are unable to pay. The layabouts in the BDP Youth Wing leadership now sponge on the industry of chaps such as the irrepressible Botsalo Ntuane MP who is unflinchingly championing the campaign to have school fees set aside. Neither have they said anything on the indiscipline, abuse of alcohol and drugs which are widespread in our schools.
Some youth also live in areas where there are no amenities such as clean running water, pit latrines are still in use, parents struggle to connect prepaid electricity meters etcetera. What would be nice to see from the BDP youth wing is for them to exhort Government to do whatever it can for such areas to be fully serviced so that young people are brought up in decent neighbourhoods.
Perhaps the BDP Youth Wing believes in what may be termed as “non-verbalised ideology” where it cannot state its position, beliefs and ideological inclinations within the broader BDP perception, of course. Some of us noted, for instance, that the now scuppered proposed changes to the BDP Constitution did not excite the Youth Wing in anyway. Silent they remained and probably watched in awe as Dr. Margaret Nasha MP and others expressed their views on the matter. Perhaps not since the days of Gomolemo Motswaledi have we seen any robust engagement by the BDP Youth Wing on issues within the local political space.
Then there is the paternalistic issue of automatic succession to the Presidency of the Republic. Of the views that are being bandied about for or against the process, which do they support and why?
The BDP Youth Wing may also be a proponent of conformance such that it fears freedom and individuality lest it be criticized. What this indifference could do is perpetuate the position that young people have little role to play in politics and therefore that their political presence is merely symbolic. While the BDP Youth leadership may be delighted that the establishment is content with their indifference to national matters, it is entirely possible that they are causing more harm than good to the Wing as some of the membership maybe concerned by their leaders’ reverence for inaction.
The situation is so uninspiring that not a whimper has been heard from the BDP Youth Wing on President Khama’s vision for the country as espoused on his inauguration day. Even on the face of an attempt to rob the people of Zimbabwe blind, an operation executed in the middle of an open space and in broad daylight by that country’s ruling party, the BDP Youth Wing has not said a thing.
It is disturbing indeed that such an important appendage of the ruling party should be on the brink of being comatose. The BDP Youth Wing must realize that because of their privileged position, they are better placed to speak on matters far and wide and for the youth, within and without the party. Playing dead does them and Botswana youth no good. The onus is also on the BDP youth themselves to elect the right leaders.