In Botswana it is common for central committee members of youth organs of political parties to replace themselves as individuals in place of the entire youth leagues/wings (YL). Youth league presidents usually address the media about their opinions but only fail to differentiate between what they think and what the youth members of the party thinks. Allow me to make a scenario for the purpose of clarity so that I do not leave you behind.
• A youth league president without even the full support of the youth league central committee; leading a YL that has no wards, constituency, regional and without even subcommittees calls a press conference and claims to state the position or ideas of the youthful members of a national party the whole of Botswana. In that (mis)representation of the youth of the party the youth leader roars before the media, “As the BCPYL (for example) we support our party Secretary General and our President to take our party to the UDC. In his speech the president has declared that he will initiate the negotiations with the UDC as soon as possible and we are fully behind him on this matter. We will also like to state that we support the newly elected executive committee as BCPYL.”
In view of the fact that our society is backward in terms or political consciousness, this statement to a lay person means that the youth members of Botswana Congress Party have met somewhere in a ‘properly represented meeting’ and agreed wholeheartedly that they want their party taken to the UDC. By ‘Properly represented meeting’ I mean that the announcement and invitations were communicated to BCPYL structures together with the agenda of the meeting authorising YL structures to send delegates to represent the position of those structures in reference to issues in the agenda of that gathering. After BCPYL members across the country have discussed and agreed, they then permit the BCPYL central committee headed by YL president to announce the position taken by that gathering, by the entire BCPYL.
Since that is not the case then it is obvious that what the president of the YL is saying in this scenario is nothing more than his personal opinion and must be stated and identified as personal. Yes we support the newly elected leadership because delegates from across the country representing party structures convened in a ‘properly represented meeting’ and voted in majority the new executive committee and we don’t need to be told that since it is an obvious matter. Clearly in the scenario, there was no need for the BCPYL president to have called a press conference in the first place because he has nothing to announce on behalf of youthful members of Botswana Congress Party. We cannot run YLs through press conferences after press conferences month after month. That is my stand. You may say that I am a critic of everything without providing solutions, but I disagree. We have talked and talked about what the YLs need to do. We have tried to reason with our YL leaders to stop being used by factions and lobbies and focus on building the YLs.
We continue and will continue to provide solutions on the abandoned roles of the YLs. What the YL presidents and leadership need to do is to agitate for youth issues within their parties and nationally. We need to see youth organs of political parties in Botswana doing what they are mandated to do but that can only be done if they first of all exist from the lowest structures such as cell, ward, constituency and region up to the central committee including subcommittees of different portfolios. The student organization for education rights is also an organ and a role of the YL. Until there are such structures the views of youth members of political parties in Botswana will be replaced by opinions of their leadership spread through press conferences. The very reason why they only use the media to address internal party issues is because they have alienated themselves from the party youth and substituted themselves in place of the people.
The youth are the candle of the nation. They are the force for change but they cannot be the light and the force for change if they are disorganised and politically unconscious. After building the structures of the YLs, the second role of these organs is to provide forums to develop self consciousness of their youth. This can be done in many ways including: political study groups, constituency and regional internal symposia and debates; youth rallies and camps; Competitions for youth issue based essays, compositions and articles with significant rewards such as opportunities for academic sponsorships and even leadership training short courses that the BCP (for example) is continuously being offered by international institutions. I strongly believe that these are simple achievable methods of developing the youth that is fit to represent their communities across the country.
The third most important issue that the YL leaders are neglecting in preference to media excitement is progressive agitation. You do not need the media as priority for agitation but we need media coverage as a compliment for what we do on the ground to represent our youth. There is no need to call a press conference just for the sake of talk to say we support for example; youth economic empowerment, workers and human rights, ipegeleng slaves, student and education rights, the freedom of speech, hawkers and street vendors. The YLs do not have to be merely rhetoric in condemning unemployment, corruption, tyranny e.t.c without doing anything practically to demonstrate what they say. Talk is cheap and this has been proved by the fact that, despite press conference after press conference by Botswana political party YLs, the youth of this nation cannot relate the relevance of these YLs to their daily living conditions. We need to see YLs organising mass demonstrations, petitions, strikes and other revolutionary methods of agitation that will attract youth from their comfort zones to stand up and fight for their rights.
In conclusion it is clear that YL leadership positions are generally used for self popularity by those in central committees across political parties in Botswana. This hunger for media attention is only used as a strategy to profile office holders so that going to general elections they will be well known and thereby expectantly win primary and then the general elections against those who would not be as popular as comrades in leadership. This tactic successfully relegates YL positions to what can be termed as, ‘opportunistic attention seeking’. This however works negatively against the real roles of the youth leagues as priority is given to self interests. In return youth organs of political parties are incompetent in fighting for the rights of the youth inside parties, nationally and even international struggle actions for the youth.
I therefore suggest that youth league leaders give these organs these three priorities sequentially: 1) Build lower youth league structures, 2) Political consciousness and skills development of youth members and 3) Progressive agitation, mobilization and mass struggles.
Yours in struggle
Poloko Parks Monang
*Comrade Monang is a former National Affairs Secretary of BNFYL, is a member of Masupatsela Study Group and an ordinary member of Botswana Congress Party.