Tichaona Zindoga Political Editor
We could call it anarchist, but it is not. We could equally call it revolutionary, but it does not quite fit in. So, let’s call Dr Cleopas Sibanda’s 2017 book, “No Democracy At All In Government by Political Party Representatives” disruptive. Sibanda is a Zimbabwean medical doctor based in Swaziland who is no stranger to politics having dabbled and diced with the ruling party, Zanu-PF, locally before he was frustrated out of the game through organisational skullduggery.
That is when he realised that political parties were not good for democracy and that politicians are inherently self-serving, hence the idea of the book. He then began a journey in search of political alternatives leading to a set of his unique ideas that will challenge the reader into rethinking the idea of politics and democracy as we know those concepts. In analysing politics and ideas of governments, governance and democracy, Sibanda draws from a wealth of examples from the West to Africa and from old royatlties to modern polities.
“Political parties are more likely to be on the opposite side of democracy than on the side with democracy,” he posits, arguing that political parties do not serve the people “and therefore not democratic social institutions at all”.
“To start with, political parties are usually not composed of or made up of people who they eventually end up representing or governing in public government institutions, instead political parties are usually made up of very small groups of people, these being their registered numbers only. Registered political party members are usually proportionately very, very small groups of people compared to both the general and the voting populations of any given country anywhere in the world,” says Sibanda (p21).
He goes on to illustrate that internal political party dynamics are usually undemocratic hence putting leadership that is not for the people at both organisational and national governing levels. The whole process is not inclusive and does not make “true democracy”.
Sibanda, drawing from Abraham Lincoln’s definition that democracy is “government of the people” says the main purpose of government would be to serve in the best interests of the people it governs but politicians serve their own best interests because the “natural and basic instincts of human beings (are) to be self-centred.”
Members of Parliament, the so-called representatives of the people, seldom practically and fully represent the people who elect them. In another strange twist, most voters, anywhere in the world do not know their public government representatives and their work, with elected officials abandoning voters until the next election cycle.
The book considers that in an ideal democracy “political parties would not only be unnecessary, but they would be absolutely ill-advised.” (p37)
“The reason is because as much as one may be very familiar with the good reasons why these parties were formed (ie their publicly stated mission statements, visions, values, aims and objectives, etc), one would never know the real reasons why specific political parties were formed in the first place. These real reasons would remain closely guarded secrets in the hearts and minds of the founding fathers or mothers.”
The book extends its cynicism to leaders. It says a good leader is one who succeeds in influencing people and behavior, attaining desired end results, objectives or outcomes of his efforts with good leaders having possession of a unique and vast natural capacity or propensity (talent) to easily learn and master the art of how to become successful and continue perfecting the requisite skills of pre-existing talent.
However, according to the writer, leadership may be exercised wrongly and negatively — to mislead — making some leadership skills “indeed very unsavoury” with “many successful or good leaders …some nasty pieces of work!” (p44)
The writer argues that leaders have a natural tendency to mislead and followers may not know the true character and personality of their leaders. Eventually, political organisations “inevitably take on the complexions of their leaders.”
On the level of government, the book points out that states are captured by big corporate businesses and are therefore governments are in the pockets of business not voters as one would have assumed considering the fact that it is voters who elect governments into power. Capture of state by business results in bribery, corruption, blackmail, cheating, theft, and other vices which businesses do to enrich themselves.
Above capture by business, there is also the involvement of the army to create what the author calls “political-government-military-industrial-complex” (PGMIC) whereby the army is deployed to further the interests of political elites and business. In the final analysis, the writer advocates for a society that is free of political parties and governments would be directly under the people.
That should be utopian, one could say. It’s bizarre, actually. But says Sibanda: “For once such governments would be servants of the people and not the other way round as is currently the case in the prevailing pseudo-democracies the world over.
“What the advent of politically independent governments would do is to immediately eliminate politically motivated social strife, conflicts, violence and killings from societies and communities the world over. Maybe it is just about time that the world is a rest about such politically motivated issues…” (p191)
In operationalising this model leaders would naturally rise in communities at various levels, through parliament and ultimately to Heads of States. A political party-free parliament, it is proposed, will be the ultimate power as “parliament is the people and the people are the parliament” (p200).
Readers will find the book provocative and challenging, but the writer sometimes makes it difficult to follow his arguments while, on other points, he is repetitive. For people looking for disruptive ideas and reimagining the world, it can provide useful avenues to escape from the world of politics as we know it. Sibanda was born at Muzvidziwa Village, Chief Madamombe Area, Chivi North District, Masvingo Province, Zimbabwe in 1966.
He did his primary and secondary education in Masvingo before moving to Goromonzi High School for “A” Level. He attained a medical degree at the University of Zimbabwe and did Masters Degree in Workplace Health and Wellbeing (Occupational Health) at University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.
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