Phetsile Masilela, the Executive Director of Junior Achievement (JA) Eswatini, is poised to become the next Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Eswatini National Youth Council (ENYC), amidst some fierce contestation that saw the Board divided over the appointment.

Credible sources within Cabinet reveal that Masilela emerged as the top candidate for the position, surpassing other contenders including Zama Tsabedze from the Sports Council, Good Shepherd's Bongani Msibi, and Enactus's Wonderboy Khumalo. The selection process is currently at the Cabinet level, awaiting approval, which is customary for executive positions in public enterprises. 

"Traditionally, the Cabinet does not disapprove unless there is a significant risk identified during their political evaluation of the candidate. However, you may never know because others have been influencing that the process should start afresh," stated an ENYC Board member who spoke to The Bridge on the condition of anonymity.

Masilela had not responded at the time of compiling this report. If appointed, she will become the first female CEO of the ENYC, succeeding Petros Makhosami Dlamini, whose contract was not renewed following concerns about underperformance at a time when there are serious youth challenges in the country. Another notable former CEO is Maxwell Jele, now leading the Eswatini Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association (EOCGA).

The Bridge has uncovered significant challenges facing the ENYC, which hinder its efforts to support the youth in Eswatini. "The government shows little commitment to empowering the youth. The ENYC struggles financially, surviving on monthly subventions instead of quarterly funding, which barely covers salaries," said a source.

At the time of this report, the  Minister of Sports, Culture, and Youth Affairs, Muzi Bongani Nzima, had not responded to The Bridge regarding the current status of the recruitment of the Eswatini National Youth Council CEO.

Prior to his appointment as Minister, the Sandleni Member of Parliament (MP) expressed his interest in the position of Minister for Youth during a courtesy visit when MPs addressed their Majesties. He mentioned his ability to work effectively with young people, highlighting the importance of youth employment for maintaining peace in the country.

"Bangilandze e-Asia Ngenywama kute kutsi ngitoba lutfungo lwakho," Nzima said, which translates to "They brought me back from Asia so that I could be of service to the King." He emphasized his understanding of young people and his ability to work better with them.

Eswatini youth face numerous challenges, including high rate of unemployment. According to the World Bank, unemployment in Eswatini has risen sharply, from 23% in 2016 to 33.3% in 2021. The situation is even more dire for young people aged 15 to 24, with an unemployment rate of 59.1% in 2021.

"Quality issues in education result in young people lacking the necessary skills to participate in the labor market. This undermines Eswatini’s potential to capitalize on its large, youthful population," reports the World Bank.