MASERU — Opposition youth wings have launched a scathing attack against the National Volunteer Youth Corps project, labelling it a “breeding ground for pro-government youth militia”.
Opposition youth leaders alleged the 153 youths selected for the first intake of the programme were chosen along party lines.
Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili launched the United Nations Development Programme-funded project a fortnight ago.
Youth Minister ‘Mathabiso Lepono said the project was initiated by the government to train university and tertiary students “to make them employable”.
But the opposition youth leaders say the project has been hijacked by the government “to further the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD)’s agenda”.
The National Volunteer Youth Corps, they say, should not have been launched because it “undermines the National Youth Council (NYC) which is still in developmental stages”.
Once established, the NYC will be a body responsible for co-ordinating youth activities nationwide and enable the youth ministry to work and interact easily with the youths.
Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) youth leader Bokang Ramats’ella alleged the government had rushed to launch the National Volunteer Youth Corps after realising it would “not have much influence in the National Youth Council”.
“Youths across the board strongly opposed the idea that the minister of youth would be the one selecting members of the council (NYC)’s committee,” Ramats’ella said.
“The National Youth Corps, I dare say, was established so that it would be a pro-LCD body to gain momentum at the expense of the NYC.”
Ramats’ella added that the youth corps project should have been a structure under the NYC “with input from NYC members”.
“But clearly the idea will never see the light of day,” he said.
“It is obvious that the youth corps will not even be incorporated into the NYC.
“This in essence means it is far from being a national youth empowerment project.
“It is nothing short of a politically motivated venture meant to dominate the NYC.”
All Basotho Convention (ABC) youth leader Libe Moremoholo labelled the project the “government’s tool to victimise people”.
“If youths within the project are to be incorporated within government ministries, then the project serves the purpose of victimising those opposed to LCD policies,” Moremoholo said.
“It is a true replica of the Lesotho Youth Services (LYS) which was the brainchild of the BNP (Basotho National Party) regime.”
The LYS was established by the BNP under the pretext that youths would be empowered “with agricultural skills”.
It however turned out to be a militia outfit used to harass and molest those opposed to the BNP rule.
“For Lepono to say that youths who will join the programme would be employable,” Moremoholo said, “was just one way of belittling our tertiary institutions.”
“She makes it appear as though our tertiary institutions are incapable of producing quality students, which is sad.
“It also strengthens the allegation that the ruling party has been hijacked by educated elites at the expense of the uneducated.
“There are so many youths with skills but were unable to pursue their studies due to socio-economic challenges.”
Moremoholo accused the LCD of hijacking the UNDP project and giving it a “new name”.
“At its inception, the project was meant to finance and empower youth organisations and community development projects at grassroots level,” he said.
” (Lepono) did not even mention it when making the budget request for her ministry in parliament.
“Finance Minister Timothy Thahane also did not mention it on donor-funded projects when he presented the budget speech to parliament earlier this year.
“If the project is genuine, I urge the concerned minister to therefore try to change the public’s perception that the selection of members was made along party lines.”
BNP youth wing leader Ts’epo Monethi blasted the ruling party for resuscitating “all that which was considered bad within the BNP regime”.
“The project is going to serve the ideas and policies of the ruling party,” he said.
Monethi said he failed to understand why youths were interviewed for a “volunteerism mission”.
“Why interview one for volunteerism?” he said.
“I will tell you why. It was done purely to determine if one was on their side and that they carried an LCD membership card.”