The elephant in the room

15 May 2019 | Opinion

When political freedom came to African nations incrementally over decades, there was great optimism about the future, as memories of political struggle became images of heroism and political capital.

Sadly, what transpired afterwards was the sustained emergence of a political elite and impunity.

Equally worrisome, many have argued, was the birth of a culture that excluded Africa's youth from active participation in politics.

This resulted in the retention of old politicians, evident in a leadership occupied mostly by sexagenarians, septuagenarians and octogenarians. Indeed, gerontocracy in Africa continues to impact youth participation in political processes.

With this in mind, it was interesting to read the comments yesterday of Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) secretary Ephraim Nekongo, who says he is concerned that disillusioned young people seem to be increasingly shunning elections.

He highlighted the lack of registration of youth voters for the upcoming Ondangwa Urban constituency by-election as a case in point.

This comes amid criticism that Namibian youth are quick to vent their frustrations on social media, but fail to vote.

Namibia is heading into election season, with the National Assembly and presidential polls set to take place in November.

The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has announced it is targeting to register an extra 300 000 eligible voters this year.

This would increase those on the national voters roll from 1.2 million to 1.5 million.

The ECN recorded 508 459 youth voters in 2014, which represents 44 % of the overall number of registered voters.

Social activist Rosa Namises believes disillusionment among youth is an indictment on political leaders, who are often implicated in corruption and maladministration. This is a salient point, along with calls for greater engagement with the youth on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The role of gerontocracy in youth disillusionment in Namibia, however, remains largely undisclosed.

And further, what role this continues to play in our nation being unable to grapple with ongoing challenges, while navigating its way through the global power quagmire.