Strengthen political party youth leagues

Strengthen political party youth leagues

A report on Youth, political participation and decision-making done by the United Nations argues that “there is strong evidence that the participation of young people in formal, institutional political processes is relatively low when compared to older citizens across the globe. This challenges the representativeness of the political systems and leads to the disenfranchisement of young people.”

The report further states that, “People under the age of 35 are rarely found in formal political leadership positions”.
That paints a very gloomy picture when we take into consideration that most of the decisions made by leaders will directly affect the youths and their future.

Furthermore, “In a third of countries, it is common practice to refer to politicians as ‘young’ if they are below 35-40 years of age. Youth is not represented adequately in formal political institutions and processes such as parliaments, political parties, elections, and public administrations.”
Lesotho is no exception to what is contained in this report. We are a country that has for a long time put our youth on the political side-lines. This happens despite the fact that our political parties have what they term youth leagues.

In this article, I will just cite two examples from political parties (one in government and another in opposition) with regard to how they view their youth leagues. My discussion is based on the manner in which these political parties have dealt with their youth leagues.
It seems from the side-lines that the Democratic Congress (DC) and the Alliance of Democrats (AD) are two political parties that do not really appreciate the work and impact of youths in their political parties.

With regard to the AD, the National Executive Committee (NEC) decided to one day just dissolve the party’s youth league. Their argument was that the youth league was not very competent and as such they found it convenient to disband the body.

The AD leadership promised Basotho in a press conference that their aim was to have an induction programme for all their youths where skills on leadership would be honed. The aim of the proposed programme was to prepare for the election of a youth league committee that would be competent and knowledgeable in their work, not just a group of youths that could be used as political puppets.

Unfortunately, we are still to see such a programme take off, almost two years since it was proposed.
There is also the DC and its well documented troubles with their youth league. A few weeks ago some disgruntled DC youth league committee members were up in arms. The bone of contention was that the NEC was thwarting their efforts to call an elective conference to fill vacancies.

The DC youth league committee was left with some vacancies after the exodus from the party by some of its members in December 2018. Although the youth league president defended the NEC against the discontented members, what remains a fact is that the party has not yet filled in vacancies in the youth league almost a year since they became vacant.
The similarities between these two political parties is that they remain with very little youth participation. This is where my worries begin. As I have stated earlier, even the UN is worried with the apparent lack of youth involvement in politics.

How then do we expect youths to be active when their own political parties are not willing to give them a chance? How will we have youths in parliament or in cabinet when it is seemingly such a big deal to just allow them to have a youth league committee?

These are the questions that keep playing in my mind when I look at the current status quo in Lesotho. We often accuse youths of not being interested in politics and in national elections. However, we forget to complain when the political parties fail to recognise the importance of the same youths in the political affairs of their country.

Political parties need to treat youth leagues and their committees with respect. This is because the plans and polices that are being developed and made by the older generation that forms the bulk of our political leadership have an effect on the youths and will affect them and their future.
It is time that youths demand an active role in the current politics and not be content to be told they have a role to play in the far distant future. They live now and should have a say in how they are being governed now. As such, they should be part of all decision-making bodies. They should be represented in parliament, cabinet and institutions that make major decisions. After all, they are the ones that will bear the brunt of decisions being made right now.

Lesotho politicians thus have the mandate to strengthen the youth leagues by ensuring that party constitutions give youths a certain level of autonomy. I am not advocating for rogue youth leagues that are not accountable to anybody. But I am advocating for independent youths that can make their own decisions without too much interference from the older cadres as is the case now.

The time for using youth leagues as tools in the party factionalism is over. They should not be used as tool to insult opposition leaders. That time is over. It is now time for youths to be busy with the development and implementation of policies that will address the challenges of unemployment and poverty.

It is time to emancipate youths so that they become independent and responsible adults that will not opt for going for a drink on election-day instead of voting. We must make our politics attractive to the youths. We can only achieve that when we begin to include them in the decision-making processes of our parties.

Kelello Rakolobe

Previous Future belongs to leaders who put their people first!
Next We need collective action among the youth

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