A Case For Empowering Young Activists

The Chairman of the National Youth Executive Committee of the BDP, KARABO GOMOTSEGANG, says he will consider it a personal failure if there is no BDP youth going to the 13th Parliament and every district council when results of the 2024 general elections are announced.

Position is a very intriguing thing. You actually exist in no other capacity but in position. It is far worse for us politicians. A year ago when I won the BDP Youth Wing National Executive Committee Chairmanship, I made a vow to fight day and night to ensure that my constituents, the youth, specifically Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) activists, are empowered. I live today proud to pursue this goal.

A BDP-led government should empower its activists but the youth are often excluded or overlooked as political candidates. Politics is typically regarded as a space for politically experienced men, and while women are often disadvantaged in accumulating experience to run for office, youth are systematically marginalised because of their young age and lack of experience. But as the increased political participation of women benefits society as a whole, the presence of young people in decision-making positions would benefit all citizens as well.

The exclusion of youth has often led to young people seeking alternative means of expressing their frustrations with government and other forms of authority. When frustration reaches unbearable proportions, the youth often turn to civil disobedience expressed in the form of protests that sometimes become violent. But while I am still BDP Youth Wing National Executive Committee Chairman, I refuse to allow such to happen. I remain with my constituents and share with them great things that are ahead so that they do not to despair.

Undoubtedly there is a need to encourage youth to build a network of politically active peers and to participate in the country’s political process. A BDP-led government needs to have a strong focus on the personal development of its activists. With increased skills and deepened knowledge, these people would be better equipped to make an impact on the growth of this great nation.

In many quarters, there has been an outcry by political activists that they have been hoodwinked and ignored by political leaders. Some have gone to the extent of labelling this as betrayal. To be honest, we need to start building a network of young political actors keen to make a difference in their communities. There is so much potential to create political change by working together with our peers. I must openly state that we need the decentralization in the youth ministry, local government and elsewhere in order to create employment opportunities for young activists. Yes, BDP youth activists because they are competitive.

I have heard in many instances people saying that government should not be politicised but who are we trying to fool here? How is the ruling party going to deliver its promises to Batswana when those tasked with implementing those promises do not share its sentiments? How is the ruling party going to be accountable to Batswana who cast their votes for us when we do not know exactly what is happening in government?

For the past couple of months, I have had the opportunity to share a table with some of the most brilliant minds that our country has produced. Some of them are actively involved in various sectors of our country’s economy. We have agreed on designing strategies for inclusion of young people, ensuring diversity among youth, and addressing the disparities between the number of young men and young women entering Parliament.
Yes, I would have failed my generation when the results of the 2024 general election are announced and there is no BDP youth in the 13th Parliament. I would have failed my generation when there is no youth leading a district/town/city or subdistrict council in this country.

The BDP-led government at all levels of governance needs to recognise that young democrats aspire to express their dreams through inclusive participation in all decision-making processes, from the conception of policies and all the way to implementation. Young democrats need platforms where they can influence policy decisions concerning their welfare and opportunities through which they can actively pursue their political and socio-economic priorities, which may often differ from those of their older counterparts. The youth want to be respected and embraced to forge a meaningful partnership towards making those aspirations and priorities a reality.

It is not only a call on government only but on leaders in civil society, business, other political parties, organized labour, academia and other formations because there is need to invest in young people through mentorship and coaching. It is the mentorship that unleashes the potential in the youth to ignite change in society. It is the mentorship that can help them navigate the crisis of the moment while preparing for a changing world. The time to invest in the next generation of leaders is now. Mentors can play a significant role in preparing young people for politics and political leadership.

Some people view the youth as a threat to their ambitions. This mist simply stop because when a young person is empowered, a democrat for that matter, it brings life to both country and party. I have never said this before but I believe it is very important to set the record straight. As a true believer in democracy and the will of people, I felt downright betrayed by democrats months ago when an article was published insinuating that the BDP National Youth Wing Executive Committee was contemplating having the next elective congress postponed until 2024.

This is outrageous. If there is anything I am thankful for, it is the vote and trust that the BDP youth bestowed on me a year ago to be their Chairman. Should a need arise for me or anyone else on this committee to seek another term in office, the congress shall be the deciding factor. I cannot under any circumstances borrow a leaf from Robert Mugabe’s political playbook. If we are to address youth matters and talk of reformation of government and party, we are bound to exercise democracy to the letter.

Winning the BDP NYEC Chairmanship was not an easy thing but democrats spoke and it was their victory. The hardships that I experienced then are the hardships that I do not want any young democrat to ever have to face when they seek to be part of the youth leadership. I am bound to remain committed to apirations of this young generation. I am most optimistic that with a properly prepared report to the leadership of the party on matters concerning the need to empower our youth activists, much shall be achieved.

His Excellency the President Dr Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi has created an open door policy in his administration regarding innovation and youth empowerment. It is through such that I and me committee will present our case for empowering BDP youth activists. To some it may sound as ditching those not aligned to the BDP but we are not going to be apologetic about this because opposition activists have been the beneficiaries of the BDP-led government.

When a democrat seeks an opportunity and applies for a job, the narrative has always been, “Kana batho ba ya go tsosa modumo gotwe go hirilwe MoDomkraga.” Democrats have been denied opportunities based on this. Man, have I said a lot? Definitely I have much to share with you. However, I have to dash to a meeting with a couple of young people who are aspiring entrepreneurs.

Karabo Gomotsegang
BDP NYEC chairperson
Contact: +267 77 044 458