Emotions cannot be allowed dominance over ideas; thoughts need come first or our politics and political parties are heading to a tragic crash; we cannot be slaves to emotions and be objective, and we cannot rely upon emotions to sustain a life time political undertaking.
No political party can be kept afloat for long on an emotional carrier, sooner or later emotions subside but a party should avoid sinking along. We need something for when emotions fade away, and that something is structure and discipline within a political party.
Structure and discipline are essential in ensuring that we are not left at the mercy of emotions but are able to use them, to enjoy them, to dominate them and channel them in the right direction in pursuit of our goals.
Important lessons from Zimbabwe’s bi-party polarisation is that ZANU PF specialises in making mistakes while the MDC is expert in preventing mistakes from being corrected; this puts the Mthwakazi political parties membership in good standing to appreciate the importance of understanding internal functioning of political parties.
A strong internal functioning of our political parties is essential for transparency, maintaining discipline, momentum, policy formulation, decision-making process of the party, membership recruitment and establishing essential collaborations with citizen movements and private media outlets.
How a political party’s structure and operation is shaped may be guided by external regulations, such as the national Constitution or laws and regulations, by internal party rules, such as the Party Constitution, or by both.
The common organisational structures in a party include, but are not limited to the following:
National leadership committee (the national executive body)
This is effectively the “party government” making and implementing decisions on a day-to-day basis. The composition of the party’s governing body will be determined by the party functioning just as the election or selection of members to this national executive will be a function of the party’s constitution.
The National Congress is usually the highest decision-making body of the party. Attendance at the conference may include delegates from regional and local branches, auxiliary groups, the women’s wing, and the youth wing of the party, if any. Attendance is open to ordinary members of the party. When it comes to Congress resolutions, some maybe binding upon the party leadership, while in other cases they are just suggestions or guidelines.
Local and regional party branches
We are often talking of devolution of power, this must be reflected at party level too. Local and regional party branches are essential in connecting the party agenda to the electorate and ensuring checks and balance on the national executive power although internal party rules may determine who is in control of the decision-making process – the national level or the local levels of the party.
The constitution will determine the degree of local and regional party branches independence without disconnecting it from the national project. The local and regional levels can manage their own budget, campaigns, electing local candidates for national elections, etc.
Auxiliary groups are essential for keeping the party connected with the multilayers of society. Arguably, youth wings and women’s wings are the most common auxiliary groups. These are usually part of the party organisation and lobby the party leadership on issues of specific concern to their members.
The auxiliary groups often enjoy a high degree of independence, they have their own membership registers and budgets and make independent decisions of their operations. They often have the right to send their own delegates to National Conventions and may have representation on the National Executive Committee.
Affiliated groups are usually separate entities, not formally part of the party organisation and have separate budgets from the party; they constitute independent organisations or movements with strong links to the party. It is not uncommon for trade unions or employer’s organisations to be affiliated to political parties. In cases, membership in the affiliated group automatically gives membership in the political party.
The value of the media cannot be overstated in politics; we are spoilt for choice, parties have to consider the several ways by which they can reach out to their members and the general public with their message.
Pro-Mthwakazi’s problem at present is the absence of dedicated media personnel in many parties which leads to indiscipline, poor focus, poor prioritisation and misdirection. Facebook and tweeter pages, for instance, are poorly managed and it is not uncommon to get conflicting messages or having anti-Mthwakazi individuals hijacking the platforms and imposing their opposing agenda.
Facilitating a healthy political existence
For a healthy political existence, we should commit to our political parties putting at the core of their activities the following:
• develop and maintain a high degree of democratic internal structures.
• promote and enforce transparency and accountability within organisation.
• consistently revitalise membership through outreach to new sectors. This will be achieved by consistently training party members to understand and objectively engage with party structures and processes; informed activists are essential in developing a healthy environment that keeps the party and its policies relevant.
There are times when parties will for political reasons, be steering and capitalising on emotions to advance their interests, but structure and discipline remain essential to ensure emotions do not undermine thoughts in the decision-making process. When emotions champion party functioning the risk of policy inconsistencies increases and party credibility questioned. Structure and discipline are essential in keeping a party on track in its pursuit of its short and long-term goals.
READ MORE: From citizen movement to political party