This week I had occasion to participate in a Gabz fm radio discussion hosted by Gabriel Rasengwatshe where, among other issues, the issue of political party caucuses and inner party democracy was discussed. I continue the discussion in this article.
It is instructive that we start by defining the key concepts involved in this matter. Firstly, political party. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia defines a political party as “… a group of people who come together to contest elections and hold power in the government. The party agrees on some proposed policies and programmes, with a view to promoting the collective good or furthering their supporters' interests…”
Secondly, political party caucuses. It is a meeting of supporters or members of a specific political party or movement intended to rally the members around a particular issue, e.g. the nominations for Specially Elected Members of Parliament.
Thirdly, inner party democracy. According to the Electoral Knowledge Network “… Internal democracy in political parties, also known as intra-party democracy, refers to the level and methods of including party members in the decision making and deliberation within the party structure…”
The Electoral Knowledge Network continues to say “… Intra-party democracy is usually known to nurture citizens’ political competencies and/or producing more capable representatives which in turn ensures that the party produces better policies and political programmes…”
As discussed during the Gabz fm radio discussion, there are those who are of the view that political party caucuses stifle inner party democracy because decisions taken during such caucuses are binding on the members even if they held different views.
They give an example of situations where a Member of Parliament (MP) is denied the right to express his or her voters’ mandate because of caucus resolutions. They also cite instances where, because of caucus resolutions, MPs are forced to vote in a particular way for positions, motions and Bills tabled in Parliament.
They argue that to avoid majoritarian dictatorship members should be free to publicly express their views even if they contradict those of the caucus. This, they argue, would save the party from self-destruction and allow MPs, for instance, to truly represent the electorate.
They further argue that a member of a political party has a civic and moral duty to speak out against the majority, especially if caucus resolutions neither promote the collective good nor further the members’ interests.
In their view, sometimes a political party’s agenda is hijacked by a few individuals who, through extortion and bribery, impose their views and have them rubber stamped by the caucus. They contend that in worse cases, political parties are captured by such forces as business and caucuses are used to further irrelevant interests.
On the contrary, others contend that there is nothing irregular in having members of a political party bound by caucus resolutions. They argue that after all, the members, by joining the political party, bound themselves to be governed by its political ideology, policies and programmes.
They argue that for a political party to prosper, individual interests should be subservient to those of the party. It is the majority’s interests that should prevail, they contend, and a member who is more often than not in disagreement with caucus decisions should resign from the party.
In my view, it is not a black and white issue. A delicate balance has to be struck. For instance, while it is true that by joining a political party a member agrees to be bound by the party’s ideologies and policies, members should be able to disagree, even publicly, on such non-fundamental issues as programmes.
In fact, such members can go a long way in neutralizing the other political parties by raising issues that would ordinarily be raised by such parties. Every political party has moderates and those at the far end of the political spectrum. If these are suppressed and not allowed to express their views they would despair and ultimately resign from the party.
What cannot, however, be allowed is for a member to publicly disagree with caucus decisions on matters which touch on party ideology or the party’s survival. For instance, it cannot be healthy for a member of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to publicly challenge capitalist ideals and support Marxist, Communist or Socialist principles.
Also, if a political party is facing a key vote in Parliament, for instance, members should follow the party line and vote in terms of the caucus resolution. In such an instance, there can be no luxury of members ‘expressing their freedoms’ by defying caucus resolutions.
In my view, for as long as members are included in decision making and deliberation within the party structure, inner party democracy would be achieved even if caucus resolutions are imposed on the members, especially if they relate to the soul and survival of the party.
Political party caucuses are, therefore, not per se irreconcilable with inner party democracy. For as long as the members are given some freedom, especially on non-life and death issues, political party caucuses are an essential aspect of inner party democracy which ensures order within a political party.
It obviously cannot be healthy for each member to speak as they please regardless of the party position. This can make the party ungovernable, making it vulnerable to the other political parties.
There is a saying in South Africa which avers that, “the White man has no kin: his kin is money”. The saying rings very true considering what Mayer Amschel Rothschild – he of the planet’s wealthiest family – once said, that, “Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws!”
To the white man, the dollar sign looms so large in his optics that it was precisely the reason he appropriated Africa towards the end of the 19th century. The idea was to develop his continent, Europe, at the same rate as he underdeveloped Africa. Yet he was driven as much by economic imperatives as by sheer greed and prejudice.
A “pagan” King violates the Jewish Temple by setting up an idol in the Holy of Holies
Why, General Atiku, has the Judean setting (present-day Israel/Palestine) being the focus of so much geopolitical fervour over the ages when it is so resource-poor and is not even that agriculturally fecund being a virtual desert? Why have all the superpowers of history locked horns over it since days immemorial?
Just a ‘teaser’: we are all complaining of the ‘hot weather’ and ‘heat’ – but think about it, is this a reminder / warning from the Almighty that if we find this weather ‘hot’ can you imagine what the ‘fires of hell’ will be like should we get there?
Let us take this as a reminder and a ‘warning’ that we should change our lifestyles so that we follow in the path of righteousness and that which our Lord has directed. Failing this we will face the ‘fire of hell’ which undoubtedly will be many times worse than what we are facing on this earth.
Because as humans we have been favoured and bestowed with the power of intellect thus we enjoy greatness over other creation, coupled with a greater responsibility. Should that responsibility be misused then only on the Day of Reckoning will he know we will live in joy or in grief forever.
Since the dawn of creation Allah has sent down thousands of messengers, dozens of Divine Books but only ONE universal Message to humanity. That message of Divine Revelation and guidance is clear, unambiguous and eternal:
Allah is One, He is Master and Creator of the universe and of mankind and to Him is due all worship and obedience.
He has sent humanity Divine Revelation and guidance through His Messengers and His Books.
As death is inevitable in this world, equally is our resurrection in the Hereafter where everyone will face the consequences of their belief, unbelief and conduct in this temporal world.
This is the basic message, teaching and belief of every religion and without doubt we will all be called to account for our lives in this world and the manner in which we conducted ourselves, will be rewarded thereafter, the consequences of which may be joy forever for some or grief forever for others.
“It is He [Allah] Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deeds and He is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving.” (Qur’an: 67: 2)
In Islam the teachings of the Qur’an and the Last and Final Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) give clear guidance to the believer on how to live a life in this world so as to achieve success in the Hereafter.
‘If any do wish for the transitory things of this life, We readily grant them, such things as We will, to such persons as We will…… those who wish for the things of the Hereafter and strive for them with all due striving, and have faith, they are the ones whose striving is acceptable to Allah’ (Qur’an 17: 18-19)
In this world when a person sets out on a journey towards our Maker (Allah), he finds two paths, one leading to God and the other path to different destinations. A sincere and faithful believer will always try to find the right path and to live by the Divine injunctions, laws and code that his religion lays down. This requires us to live in harmony with the will of the Creator, in harmony with our own selves, and with the needs of the rest of creation. Unfortunately we have a tendency at times to toy with Divine Law and to surrender it to the laws of man and in the process to translate and interpret them into what fits in with our lifestyle of today.
If we are to use the intellect and the freedom of choice bestowed to us by God Almighty and follow His guidance, we will then live consciously in a state of “submission’ to Him, thus we will be virtuous. On the other hand when we ignore our Creators injunctions we work against the natural order, we tend to create discord, injustice and evil – and we become one without guidance. Therefore it is the intellect and the freedom of choice given to us that we are fully responsible for whatever we do.
However, it would be foolish for us to think of ourselves as totally independent and self-sufficient. If a person thinks in this manner, we become proud and. We will be inclined to become ungrateful for the bounties that we enjoy – the air that we breathe and the food we eat to sustain us, the eyes and ears we use to perceive the world around us, the tongue and lips we use to express our needs, wants and our inner most feelings and emotions. And being ungrateful, we will be inclined to forget or to reject the truth of the existence of God Almighty.
Unfortunately, people have varying views with regards to what the most important characteristic of a person is: for some it is the colour of his skin; for others, it is his economic situation – whether he is wealthy or poor; others think it is his , social or political standing, whether he is ruler or ruled; for others it is his social standing as an aristocrat, middle or working class; yet for some is his birth place and the language he speaks or the tribe he belongs to, etc..
‘Do men think that they will be left alone on saying “We believe”, and they will not be tested? We tested those before them, and Allah will certainly those who are true and those who are false’. (Quran 29: 2-3)
In Islam, these have no significance rather they are merely taken as signs of the creative power of God to enable people to recognise one another. The Almighty declares “O Mankind! Indeed we have created you as male and female, and have placed you in nations and tribes that you may have mutual recognition. However, the most honourable of you, in the sight of Allah is the one who is most God-conscious” (Qur’an: 49: 13)
Hence, the most important characteristic of a person is whether he is conscious of his Creator, believes in Him and through that consciousness submits to Him at all times and in all circumstances.
According to the Islamic view man is created by Allah in a pure state, free from sin. He also created us with the capacity or power to do both good and evil. He gave us the freedom to choose between doing good or evil. The good and evil therefore is connected with mankind’s freedom of choice and responsibility for their actions. “Good” may be whatever is pleasing to Allah and therefore beneficial to us. Whereas “Bad/evil” may be whatever incurs the anger of God and is therefore harmful to man.
‘By the soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right – truly he that succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it….. (Quran 91: 7-10)
Therefore one of mankind’s main tasks is to keep away from and ward off evil. This is why Taqwa, piety and God consciousness is repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’an as the most important quality a person should develop in this regard. This means one must be conscious at all times not to over step the limits set by God. It works as a defence against evil and temptation by keeping a person within the boundaries of piety.