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Refusal to attend political party disciplinary hearings: the debate

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

EAGLE WATCH
 

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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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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