News and Information

August 17, 2004
Tuesday, August 17 2004

NSHR questions the motive, timing and expediency as well as the reasonability of the transfer over the weekend of the secretive paramilitary National Youth Service (NYS) to the Office of President.

On August 14 2004 President Sam Nujoma, by a decree, removed with “immediate effect” NYS from under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Employment Creation (MHETEC) to that of State House. The constitutionality, legality and desirability of such a transfer are also questionable. Consider the following facts:

1. In a Media Release on April 5 2001 the Cabinet announced the establishment of National Youth Service Agency (NYSA) as a statutory body. The Cabinet explained that it was necessary to establish NYS as an agency because it has grown since its inception in 1998. Read the Cabinet Media release then:

“As a result of this growth it has become clear that a Government Ministry is not an effective and efficient agency to run the youth programme because of the Government procedures and bureaucratic delays that have been frustrating the youth”.

2. As if the intentions of the above Media Release were not clear enough, on June 3 2002 the Cabinet, once more, advised in yet another Media Release that “a Government ministry cannot effectively and efficiently administer and manage the expansion [of NYS] and that a flexible and efficient organization is required”. Hence, MHETEC recommended that NYS be established as a statutory body.

3. However, in motivating the transfer of NYS from MHETEC to his own State House Ministry President Nujoma last Saturday stated:

“The National Youth Service has now expanded and needs to be effectively and efficiently administered to enable it to play its meaningful role in the acceleration of the socio-economic development of our country.”

4. Hence, NSHR found the constitutionality, legality and desirability of the transfer to be questionable. In terms of Article 32(1) the President should, subject to the overriding terms of the Constitution and the laws, perform all acts necessary, expedient, reasonable and incidental to the discharge of the executive functions of the Government. While in terms of Article 40(a) the Cabinet has the functions of inter alia advising the President and National Assembly (NA) on the desirability of, among other things, orders or directives pertaining to parastatal enterprises, “regard being had to the public interest”.

“MHETEC, having advised and recommended to the President and Cabinet that: (1) a Government Ministry ‘is not an effective and efficient agency to run’ NYS and (2) that NYS should be transformed into a parastatal, it remains to be seen whether the President’s August 14 2004 directive was constitutional, legal and desirable, let alone necessary, expedient and reasonable as envisaged in the Constitution”, said NSHR executive director Phil ya Nangoloh.

5. The reasonability of the transfer is also questionable as it makes little sense, if any, to remove NYS from one Government Ministry (i.e. MHETEC) to another Government Ministry (i.e. Office of the President).

6. Moreover, speaking at the Rooikop Military Base in Walvis Bay on December 15 2000, President Nujoma, among other things, urged NYS recruits “to be patriotic, proud and diligent”. While on March 5 2004 the President reportedly pointed out to the paramilitary group as “a perfect example of keeping young people occupied and away from the temptations of the imperialists”. He also said that NYS has succeeded in wiping out ethnicity and tribalism”.

7. Hence, the hidden political agenda behind NYS is finally coming to the fore. Taken against the backdrop of the up-coming national and presidential elections and the punitive land reform process as well as the involvement of Zimbabwe “experts” in the said process, the timing of such transfer could not be more perfect and opportune. President Nujoma is likely to convert NYS into a repressive tool to be used against civil society actors and Opposition parties during such elections or even beyond.

Brief Background Information

In 1999 the Cabinet made a decision to confront youth unemployment by giving the MHETEC the mandate to set up a program to rectify the situation. That was how NYS was born under the direction of MHETEC Deputy Minister Hadino Hishongwa.

On October 9 1999, in Windhoek, President Nujoma launched the potential militia under heavy security and secrecy in the name of combating spiraling youth unemployment. A core group of some 50 Grade 12 school-leavers, aged between 18 and 25, was recruited as the first training intake at a Katutura multi-purpose youth center. At the time, some visitors compared the center to an army camp, judging from the young people in military fatigues. Other observers remarked that the first intake resembled military recruitment rather than a civilian service program.

Nonetheless, at the time the MHETEC maintained that there was nothing sinister about the project. The training involved basic military discipline and entrepreneurial skills as well as handling of national emergencies. Deputy Minister Hishongwa reportedly also said that NYS was to be developed as a national project to uplift peoples’ standard of living, eradicate poverty and hunger. According to Hishongwa, 560 graduates were now working in various Ministries as well as in the Namibian Defense and Police forces.

Stark Similarities with Zimbabwe Militia

There are stark similarities between NYS, on one hand, and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s youth brigades, on the other. Notoriously known as “Green Bombers” the Zimbabwean paramilitary youth militia was formed in 1989. However, it was only put into operation in 2002 as a brainchild of Border Gezi, ZANU-PF’s political commissar and Minister of Gender, Youth Development and Employment Creation.

Like their Namibian counterpart, the Green Bomber militiamen were also trained to promote military discipline and entrepreneurial skills for purposes of self-help. However, since 2002 Zimbabwe’s youth militia has earned itself notoriety for engaging in systematic and gross human rights abuses. Zimbabwe’s Green Bomber militias were made to chant pro-Mugabe revolutionary songs and denounce the Opposition MDC as a puppet of Western imperialism.

Note: For additional comment, please call P. ya Nangoloh and Dorkas Phillemon at Tel: +264 61 236 183 or +264 61 253 447 (office hours) or Mobiles: +264 811 299 886 (ya Nangoloh) or +264 812 751 883 (Phillemon)


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