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Refusal to attend political party disciplinary hearings: the debate

Ndulamo Anthony Morima


Last week we attempted to answer the question whether or not political disciplinary hearings can be fair. We used the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) case where seven leaders including party president Honourable Ndaba Gaolathe are facing disciplinary proceedings.

We opined that political disciplinary hearings cannot be fair. We argued that since politics is about numbers and positions of influence, disciplinary hearings are often held against individuals not because they have committed violations, but because the dominant faction wants to get rid of them for political expediency, especially if it fears that such individuals may beat them in elections.

We gave an example of the BMD saga where some believe that the disciplinary hearing against the suspended seven leaders is meant to dismiss them, or at least the party president, Honourable Gaolathe, from the party ahead of the elective congress so that his rival, Advocate Sidney Pilane, ascends to the presidency with no contest.

We also argued that since politics is about power balance and numbers, sometimes, even if some politicians, especially in the leadership, are liable for certain violations they are let off the hook even after attending disciplinary hearings for fear of alienating their followers or losing general elections.

We gave an example of South Africa where the former Democratic Alliance (DA) leader, Helen Zille, has been let off the hook by being merely required to apologize publicly and resign from all party leadership structures, but remain a party member and Premier of the Western Cape despite publishing racist remarks on twitter.

We also stated that in some cases, especially when a group is charged, as is the case with the BMD seven, only a few or one may be found guilty so that the group is split. We stated that consequently some suspect that in an effort to cause division within the Gaolathe/ Mmolotsi faction, only Honourable Gaolathe may be dismissed following the disciplinary hearing.

Those opposed to our view have argued that provided a member facing disciplinary action is timeously informed of the charges; is allowed to have a representative; is allowed to bring witnesses; is allowed to cross examine the party’s witnesses; is allowed to mitigate before sentence and is accorded the right to appeal the disciplinary hearing would be fair.

We agree that this is correct as far as the procedural right to a hearing is concerned. But, what about the procedural right against bias? Are bias and or prejudice not occasioned by the incidents as demonstrated in our arguments above? We submit that they are.

In terms of our law, even if the party complies with other procedural rights, the existence of bias and or prejudice would negative the entire process. The result would be procedural impropriety which would render the decision unfair and unlawful, liable to be set aside by the courts.

What about substantive fairness? If illegitimate charges are brought against a member for an ulterior political motive is that fairness? What if the party constitution is manipulated to meet such selfish ends as eliminating political rivals? Would that be fair? We submit that it would n’t.  

In this article we discuss whether or not the fact that political disciplinary hearings are inherently unfair and or can be unfair gives those facing disciplinary proceedings the right to refuse to attend the disciplinary hearing. Does their refusal to attend constitute disregard for the party constitution and leadership?

Admittedly, prima facie, this seems to be an absurd question. Is n’t it obvious that a member who, when called by the party leadership in terms of the party constitution to attend a disciplinary hearing, refuses to attend such hearing is contemptuous of both the party constitution and the party leadership?

That every member of a political party is bound by the constitution is incontrovertible. For instance, if a member contravenes the constitution he or she should be dealt with in terms of the constitution. Such dealing includes disciplinary hearings.

It, therefore, follows that a member who disregards a call to attend a disciplinary hearing violates the very constitution he or she has sworn to uphold. In fact, the failure to attend a disciplinary hearing without just cause is itself another violation for which the member can be disciplined.

But, some have argued that it is not as easy as that, arguing that sometimes a member would have just cause to refuse to attend a disciplinary hearing. They contend that where it is clear that the disciplinary hearing would be unfair it is justified for the member not to attend the disciplinary hearing because if he or she does he or she would effectively be legitimizing the unfair disciplinary hearing.

This, they argue, is especially true considering that once the party makes a decision, especially if it has followed the procedural rights discussed above, the courts seldom interfere with such a decision. This is because the courts have held that political disputes are better decided at a political level and have been hesitant to substitute the party’s decision with theirs. 

The counter argument to this is that this amounts to taking the law into one’s own hands and is untenable since many members, including those who have a bonafide case to answer, may refuse to attend disciplinary hearings, the result of which would be lawlessness and a dysfunctional political party.

According to this view, even if one believes the disciplinary hearing would be unfair they should attend and raise such apprehension during the disciplinary hearing. If their complaint is not heeded, it is argued, they can always appeal the decision in terms of the party constitution.

Alternatively, it is argued, after attending the disciplinary hearing if it is clear that the proceedings are and or would be unfair, one can always approach the court either to interdict the disciplinary hearing from continuing or asking the court to review the decision.

With respect to the BMD case, for instance, some have wondered how the suspended seven, most of whom are leaders, can disregard the very constitution they have sworn to uphold. They have dismissed as a lame excuse the claim by the suspended seven that there is no Disciplinary Committee (DC) before which to appear, stating that if that is true they are to blame for failing to constitute the DC.


Some have been even more sinister, claiming that the reason the suspended seven, most of whom are leaders, did not ensure the establishment of the DC while in office is that they knew they are prone to deviant behaviour and deliberately created the disciplinary lacuna so that in case they contravene the constitution there will be no DC to try them.

Some have argued that it is advisable for the suspended seven to attend the disciplinary hearing and raise objections where necessary because if they do not attend the disciplinary hearing they will be dismissed making it difficult for their case to be prevailed upon by the congress.

Some, on the other hand, argue that the suspended seven need not attend the hearing because their dismissal or suspension is a foregone conclusion. In their view, even if the suspended seven are dismissed or suspended such decision will be set aside by the congress which is the highest decision main body in the party.

Though I believe in the rule of law and constitutionalism, my view is that, depending on the circumstances of each case, these do not always apply in politics. After all, politics is the art of the possible whose rules are not always black and white.

It may well be that the suspended seven’s refusal to attend the disciplinary hearing is a grave mistake for them. It may also well be that it works for them if they have made their political calculations properly. Therefore, this is one of the few cases where I will be a fence seater.

Closely related to this topic is the question: should politicians, especially those in leadership positions, face disciplinary hearings or they should go through mediation and conciliation proceedings. This we discuss next week. 

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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