Kristal Duncan-Williams (Youth Capital), Pearl Pillay (YouthLab) Zanele Buthelezi (Sonke Gender Justice) and Lukhona Mnguni (political analyst)) had a robust discussion about the upcoming appointment of National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) board members. In recent months, youth organisations questioned the process for the selection of the NYDA board members. Youth organisations like the South African Youth Chamber of Commerce, challenged the process followed in the selection of the seven board members, out of 600 applicants, in August 2020. This questioning has led to a new call for board members. The agency has been without a board since May 2020 and Parliament has now restarted the process to recruit a new NYDA board.
Why does the NYDA have a board?
Lukhona explained that conventionally a board is a necessity because it provides a governance framework, which ensures accountability for a structure like the NYDA that offers service delivery to society. A board is also necessary to oversee the implementation of an organisation’s objectives. Zanele echoed this idea, and added that a board is essential to provide “coordinated management of the expenditure and resource allocation”.
A capable board and the NYDA’s operations.
Having a capable board that effectively gives oversight and promotes good governance strengthens the NYDA’s operations. Pearl noted that such a board is able to address the existing gaps, ensure that young people’s needs are championed and create an environment where young people can flourish. She also emphasized that a capable board will restore “public trust” in the work of the NYDA and its ability to serve young people. On the note of trust, a capable board that holds the NYDA accountable reinforces the sense of public trust. Zanele stressed that a capable board that is able to hold the NYDA accountable for implementing its objectives ensures an operationally functioning board.
The way in which political parties have previously weighed in the appointment of the board is the main problem that affected the past board processes; this has dented the capability of the board and caused public mistrust. To this point, Lukhona argued that the manner in which the parties have weighed in created “a gateway for comrades” from the ruling party to be employed by NYDA.
To combat questionable political involvement in the NYDA board, the panellists emphasized the need for a transparent board appointment process so that the legitimacy of the board is not suspect.
Characteristics of the board we want.
Board members with the appropriate skill-set reinforce the legitimacy of the board. Zanele noted that members of the board need to have competencies fit for the responsibilities of the board. For instance, she highlighted the need for system thinking as this will lead to effective strategic guidance. As much as skills are important, Pearl highlighted the fact that the criteria used to shortlist board members should be mindful of the fact that South Africa’s education system does not afford every young person the opportunity to obtain a university qualification. In addition to the criteria, Lukhona said that the values of the short-listed members must be assessed because values will inform how members give oversight over the NYDA’s operations. He said that “values are an important ingredient because skills alone and experience on its own will be meaningless”.
The NYDA Board Appointment Timeline.
The panellists also underlined the fact that young people need to not only closely observe the criteria used to select members of the board, but also the timeline for the appointment process. This is important, because presently the timeline roll-out has not been transparent. You can view the latest timeline below.
Young People Holding Board Committee Accountable.
There are different actions that young people can take to hold the selection committee accountable. The panellists suggested the following ways:
• Stay engaged– join discussions online on Whatsapp Groups like the Youth Capital/Youth Lab Constituency/Working Group where youth policy matters are discussed
• Use social media to communicate with decision-makers, i.e. tweet to the NYDA and ask questions about the process.
• Host a watch party to watch the interviews that happen to be able to post questions to the committee.
• Provide space for young people to engage with the process.
As young people, we are in a position where, as Pearl said, we “are demanding better”. Where we can say what kind of NYDA board we want and work towards that.
If you would like to work with Youth Capital around the NYDA board process, WhatsApp us.
Here is the full Facebook Live discussion.