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Internal democracy under threat in African context - Sadc countries as case study

Critical analysis of internal democracy

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 structures. How do you define internal democracy in any governing institution? There are at least two approaches to promoting internal democracy in political parties; one is advocacy, and the second is legal or regulatory. I wonder if anyone can give examples of countries that have adopted the second approach (i.e. legal/regulatory measures), and also, if they are aware of any documents or publications that specifically explore this issue.

Do we allow a voting process or it is a show of open hands when voting? Do we assault opponents, or we as leaders we are subject to criticism? Recent developments in Southern Africa clearly show that we are far from passing the litmus test of democracy. Here is a serious gap in internal democracy, which is different in the European context. Although the view that "parties should practice what they preach" is commonly shared, there are also skeptics who might argue that too much democratization may hinder parties to keep their electoral promises and also dilute the power of a party's inner leadership.

South Africa

 I've been studying recent events in ANC-led governing party which is being led by Zuma, were the keys for democracy have been thrown away despite heavy criticism from the main opposition and other civic bodies but so far democracy is under assault.

There are so many norms and pros evolving around the issue of internal democracies, where one goes against the leader and you are gone. Many leaders have rushed to label their internal critics as being used by imperialists or being used by colonialists, no room for discussions or negotiations and it seems the leader will carry the day.

Zuma is planning to bring his wife in, and this has been the plan, and at the same time Cyril Ramaphosa has his own backers, so these are two factions altogether, we have seen Zuma being labeled as corrupt, facing a number of charges, he survived impeachment.

Though Zuma has a bit of maturity, he used emotions to dismiss all his opponents who were perceived to be Maphosa's backers. Instead of appreciating the internal criticism within the party, he fired all hose perceived to be Mpahosa's handlers.

This is where Zuma shows dictatorial tendencies, because I believe in Leadership, people have to accept what is called constructive criticism. Zuma is facing fresh serious corruption charges which can land him in jail when his term expires and his Governing party was trying to advise him of the consequences which could even cost his party in the next election, but despite such good sentiments, he has managed to kick out all those aligned to Cyril Ramaphosa and all those who opposed him.

This is an African context where democracy can never fit in, it is either you shape up in the big shoes or you are gone. One can never cite corruption allegations on his boss, or challenging critical decisions, it is either you are layed off from the system. Though South Africa has improved on democracies but internal democracy is a bit challenge.

We have seen non-performing ministers being protected by Zuma because of the loot; it is not about democracy or performance but is about whether you belong to the right club of looting. Governance in the African context is under threat, at the end of the day we produce poor results in all institutions because it is about power play.


Zambia is also having some issues to do with democracy though Lungu is an accommodative guy, who listens. There have been some squabbles in the PF governing party since Michael Sata did. Lungu faced a stiff challenge because there have been several cohorts who were ready for a show down. There were two main factions, the other one led by the former deputy minister of finance Miles Sampa, and the other one led by the incumbent President Edgar Chagwa Lungu.

Internal democracy was under threat in Zambia when rival groups used weapons and sharp objects to silence each other. Internal democracy could not be respected. However I give Lungu credit, because despite being harassed by the rival group he managed to triumph on the issue of power retention. There are some lessons which can be drawn from the Zambian experience. The issue of succession is a matter which should be dealt with openly. Succession is part of democracy and it should be respected.

Despite differences which the two groups had, he managed to convince all the factions and he brought them together, and that is why PF managed to retain power in 2016.

PF performed badly in 2015 by election because of infighting. Recently in Zambia, Chishimba Kambwili was fired from the cabinet by Lungu because he wanted to challenge Lungu at the 2020 PF convention. My question is then was it wrong for Kambwili to challenge his boss at congress level? He went on to lose his Government and party position because of failure to accept internal democracy.


Recent political developments in the Zanu PF governing party clearly show that internal democracy is not part of their DNA. Why should someone who opposes your views being purged? Should you purge your opponent or you welcome him and hear his views? Is it necessary to dismiss someone from his position because he has ambitions of succeeding you or there is need for you to manage him? How do you contain such situations? We have seen ED losing his Government position and his party position as well because of some stiff internal democratic issues.

Why would people be bused to chant slogans, instead of allowing internal democracy to flow? Is it treasonous to challenge the party leader or criticize him? Is there any room for negotiation? Does Zanu PF party belong to individuals or it is a party that can allow internal democracy to happen without any sphere of influence?

Can Mugabe be challenged at congress level? Or his position has to be confirmed or affirmed by various organs and party structures. Why would one be affirmed by the structures, instead of an open challenge using secret ballot? For example Grace Mugabe is being confirmed by party structures for the VP post, and it will be unfair for other political players from other parties because a VP will be imposed on them without their own contribution.

Why can't there be an open race and then people decide? Why can't a secret ballot be used in such forums? I believe in internal democracies the issue of confirming leaders in structures is not the way to got but, it must be an open race or use the ballot box to prove your popularity.

ED as a case study

I will never support ED because he has his issues already because he is the same person who told the august house that diaspora vote is non- negotiable but today he is talking of democracy? He is the same person who terrorized people in midlands, kwekwe and he made himself a semi-god in the whole province? Is that democracy? He is the same person who denied Tsvangirai to go to State House in 2008.

How then do we trust an individual just because he now belongs to the opposition then we should entrust him with leadership? He is the same person who said opposition leaders should be crushed and he is the same person who campaigned for the one-center of power in Zanu PF, and he even said "pamberi nemhandu" slogan.

So is opposition an enemy? Do we allow such language in democratic countries? Why would he blame Mugabe of dynasty yet he is the same person who replaced his wife in his constituency? He even went further to make sure his son would be field in Kwekwe central for 2018 election? Is it not the same route for one center of power? Just because he is out then he wants sympathy?

Tinashe Eric Muzamhindo writes in his personal capacity as the Head of Southern Institute of Policy Analysis and Research – SIPAR TRUST, which is responsible for policy Analysis and Research. He is also an academic and researcher. He holds a BA, M.A from Solusi University, and he also holds a Masters of Development Studies from University of Lusaka, Zambia. He is currently enrolled at University of Kwazulu Natal University in South Africa (PHD in Development Studies). He can be contacted at southerninstitutepar@gmail.com

All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

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