Keeping party discipline

One of the chief and immediate tasks facing the pro-Mthwakazi agenda drivers is to build and maintain a politically effective environment within parties; that means targeted work towards making the organisations vibrant, coherent, creative, relatable and adaptable to local needs and international demands, relevant and effective in how they pursue and execute their goals.

The key to our success is discipline; arbitrary measures lead to chaos but rules, organisation and predictable processes are indispensable to effectiveness. Discipline will be the refining file by which our political dreams are moulded into reality. Discipline is not to be confused with repression; while discipline enables the protection of individual rights to free speech, other freedoms and liberties, repression stifles individual rights.

No act brings to the fore the need and urgency for building and enforcing internal discipline than a recent incident (end of October 2020) in which some pro-Mthwakazi activists in Bulawayo effectively hijacked and turned a funeral work of a local music artist into a political protest without the knowledge of the leader of a party they purportedly represented.

Such behaviour is not only repugnant but undermines the leadership, discipline and risks alienating the organisation with its constituency. Self-respect is the root of discipline; to achieve more, our organisations must be democratic and built on discipline to maintain effective functionality with adequate checks and balance in place. It is important that discipline does not turn into an autocratic coup of an organisation’s internal processes; internal party discipline should be achieved without repression of free speech, individual freedoms and liberty.

Why discipline is necessary in any organisation is that it enables members to operate by principle rather than desire. There are times when we have to say ‘no’ to ourselves; saying ‘no’ to our impulses puts us in control of our choices rather than vice versa.

To achieve internal discipline, parties will need to focus on the following measures:

  1.  develop and maintain democratic internal structures,
  2. promote and enforce transparency and accountability, and
  3. consistently revitalise party membership through outreach to new sectors.  

Internal democracy

Mthwakazi political parties need to be internally democratic, that would mean they intentionally adopt democratic values and processes which will include freedom of speech and freedom of choice for members, transparency, accountability and inclusive values.

An open and inclusive party will be more effective in a socio-culturally diverse Mthwakazi; openness and inclusivity allow dynamic and competitive campaigns, attract a large pool of talent in staff and volunteers, it expands and enhances support among the base and taps into more human and financial resources.

To strengthen internal democracy, parties should have written rules (e.g. in the form of statutes) and known organisational divisions with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. However, laws and statutes alone do not translate to democracy and discipline. Laws and institutions are meaningless if we do not intend to apply and enforce them.

The vitality of statutes is in defining party rules which include internal regulations that govern daily operations and performance standards and decision-making processes. They outline organisational divisions or structures that enable the party to effectively execute its mission. Statues also provide valuable access by party members to a set of clear guidelines and structures instrumental in the implementation of party principles.

Party transparency and accountability

Transparency

The duty for party official to act visibly, predictably and understandably to promote participation and accountability. Here we are referring to organisational clarity on such issues as membership, disciplinary processes, candidate and leadership selection processes, decision-making process, communication of decisions, party funding, etc.  

Information must be made easily available to members or appointed external auditors; that information must be of good quality. Simply making information available is not sufficient to achieve transparency. Parties have to manage and publish information so that it is:

  1. Relevant and accessible: Information should be presented in plain and easy to comprehend language and formats appropriate for different stakeholders and audiences.
  2. Timely and accurate:Information should be delivered in sufficient time to permit analysis, evaluation and engagement by relevant stakeholders and audiences. Information should be up-to-date, accurate, and complete.

Accountability 

It refers to the processes and actions set in place to ensure those in position of authority are answerable for their actions or inactions and that measures are enacted to correct any identified inadequacies; accountability addresses whether and how those in power are made to account for their decisions.

We will look into two systems (vertical and horizontal accountability) of improving accountability.

  • Vertical accountability

This is a system in which party members retain some sort of check on their leadership. This can take the form of regular internal party elections. The check on the party leader is that they can be voted out of office. Although party members do not control the party leader’s daily activities, the leader is ultimately accountable to their party members.

  • Horizontal accountability

This is a system in which independent organisations have some sort of check on those who govern. For example, a civil society organisation monitors legislative votes and publicises legislators’ individual votes. The electorate can be allowed access to a legislator’s voting record which increases transparency and voters will be better informed about his work. However, we are not naïve to expect or trust that overview by the partisan Zimbabwean civil organisations will be a politically positive move.

Parties may have to be creative in how they improve transparency. For instance, parties could seek out partnerships with independent pro-Mthwakazi civil society organisations to help carry out audits of party operations and make recommendations necessary recommendations.

Party Outreach

This refers to how a party evolves, expands and grows into new territories; parties have to conduct studies to identify possible grounds into which they can extend their activities and how that can be done.

Conclusion

Ill-discipline is the scourge of Zimbabwe’s politics since 1980. Pro-Mthwakazi parties must change the narrative and strengthen internal discipline. Internal discipline to be projected through clear written party statutes is essential for the effective implementation of party rules and execution of duties towards our goals. Consistent review of activities is another essential aspect of discipline. We need to constantly measure progress towards set goals and redress any failings without delay. It is also important that up-to-date information is available in easy read formats for party members and appropriate formats for different stakeholders to acquaint themselves with the party’s mission, principles, goals, rules, activities, effectiveness and projections for the future.

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