SPYL congress: An opportunity for redemption
Outgoing spokesperson of the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) NEVILLE ANDRE spoke to TOIVO NDJEBELA earlier this week ahead of the league’s watershed elective congress, which kicked off yesterday in Katima Mulilo.
Toivo Ndjebela (TN): What does the SPYL intend to achieve at this congress?
Neville Andre (NA): First, it is a constitutional obligation that we have congress after every five years. What needs to happen is to review progress made on the resolutions of the last congress and to come up with new resolutions. Reports will be presented on what was achieved since the last congress. There would be robust discussions on youth development. We will also ensure that members understand the party and its principles and expectations.
TN: Apart from the traditional programme of the congress, such as reviews of progress, what else is lined up?
NA: Congress will consider constitutional amendments and amend the code of conduct. Also, we’re going to divide delegates into small groups such as economic reforms, international relations, sports, arts and culture, education, social mobility and health. The theme of the congress is ‘The Role of the Youth in Sustainable Development’. Each group will report back and concrete resolutions would be taken.
TN: Who sets the congress’ agenda?
NA: The agenda is set by the NEC (National Executive Committee) and then central committee. Once central committee endorses it, it sends out the agenda to the structures months before the congress.
TN: The agenda doesn’t seem to address the obvious divisions currently in SPYL. How does congress intend to address this issue and ensure you all emerge as a united front?
NA: During reporting by central committee to congress, such issues will be addressed with recommendations on what should be done. We should understand that both Swapo and SPYL are multi-class organisations with different schools of thoughts. We’re therefore not expected to share the same views all the time. The constitutions also allow active and robust engagement. Different views are welcome within the structures, but once a common position is taken it is expected that everyone adopts that position. The party school teaches about democratic centralism, which is to say members must adopt a common position taken democratically within the structures. Congress will be informed as to how all differences were addressed.
TN: It has been a turbulent five years for SPYL – some members expelled and so forth. Is congress going to get reports in this regard and pronounce itself on these matters?
NA: SPYL didn’t suspend any of those colleagues. We’re a wing of the party and when the party expels you, it automatically applies to the league itself. Congress will be briefed, for information, what has happened.
TN: Are those who were expelled welcome at congress?
NA: If they are delegates, yes. All delegates are allowed to attend congress.
TN: What if they are attending as members of the SPYL structures such as the National Executive Committee or Central Committee?
NA: Like who specifically?
TN: Like Job Amupanda and Immanuel Nashinge, for example.
NA: Remember there was a court case to determine whether Job is a central committee member and it was ruled that he is not. Nashinge is a central committee member, so he is eligible to attend congress.
TN: What is the status of Dr Elijah Ngurare in the SPYL at the moment?
NA: He is not a member of SPYL.
TN: What positions are up for grabs at congress?
NA: Secretary, deputy secretary and central committee membership.
TN: What kind of leadership is this congress intent on producing?
NA: It is up to delegates to determine what qualities they are looking for in a leader. They know what they want and they will vote accordingly.
TN: Swapo, after its recent central committee meeting, implored SPYL to show leadership during this congress. Perhaps they were subtly referring to several incidents, such as one where Amupanda was barred from a central committee meeting and another where two members from the Kavangos exchanged blows. Your take?
NA: Veikko Nekundi has always been a fair man and has always tried to protect the youth league. The Job incident happened because there was no clarity on his status in the league. The meeting was postponed so that SPYL can first get clarity from the party. If he wasn’t a fair man, he wouldn’t have postponed the meeting. The fight between Felix Haingura and Paulus Mbangu happened outside, after the meeting was adjourned. It didn’t happen in the meeting. Nekundi called them in to engage them. So, there is leadership.
TN: Is Nekundi standing for re-election?
NA: He is not standing. There are three candidates for the secretary’s position and he’s not one of those. Mandela Kapere, Mirjam Nghidipo and Ephraim Nekongo will stand.
TN: How does congress intend to deal with central committee’s position for SPYL to endorse President Hage Geingob as sole candidate for the party’s presidency at the Swapo congress?
NA: It will be reported to congress that central committee has resolved to endorse President Geingob as the party’s sole candidate. It’s up to congress to decide.
TN: What’s the thought around sole candidacy?
NA: It’s to ensure that we have a smooth succession culture in the party as it has always been. There’s always been a challenge in that context. It has not benefitted the party in the past. The aim is to ensure that there is a smooth operation of the organisation [Swapo]. President Geingob is the vice-president and there has always been a culture of succession. So why not support him?
TN: What is the SPYL’s view on remarks by Helmut Angula about setting a threshold, allegedly of 30 years, for one to qualify to join some of the Swapo structures such as central committee?
NA: Congress is going to discuss this issue and I don’t want to give away our strategy on the matter, so I’m not going into it now. SPYL makes space for people from the pioneers’ movement. The same expectation is there for Swapo to accommodate those graduating from the youth league. That gradual injection of members into the party is needed to close the generational gap.
TN: Could it be argued that the suspension and expulsion of some NEC members might have disrupted the execution of assignments agreed at the last congress?
NA: The people who held those positions were replaced. Central committee replaced them with other people so that the business of the league runs uninterrupted.