Guide On The Contrary: Leading The Opposition In A Democratic South Africa

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Most importantly they must cultivate a culture of constitutional governance.

The Autocratic Threat Is Growing

It is a great challenge for parties to become democratic because they have many interests and targets. But this alone cannot be the withholding factor. Whereas most political parties in Uganda have well-drafted constitutions as their supreme guiding document, these constitutions have not been adequately implemented to the satisfaction of both party members and Ugandans at large. If political parties are not democratic, it follows without question that they will be worse when they assume power.

A well-meaning political party would never postpone constitutionalism and democracy within its ranks and hope to rectify this anomaly when it takes over power. At that time it may be too late to right the wrongs that were committed along the way. Democracy is like any living creature.

It needs to be natured and practiced by those who agitate for it before it can mature. The French and the British consider party democracy as a central tenet of good governance philosophies. It is a core value that orientates their political attitudes and defines their identity Faucher, On the contrary, governments in Africa have a tendency of deliberately weakening institutions, particularly opposition political parties.

They are aware that well-functioning, vibrant and strong institutions would seriously check all undemocratic tendencies of government. It places a sense of responsibility on those in power to exercise their authority responsibly with the people they govern at the centre of expected benefits of every action and programme undertaken by government.

Yet, at the same time democracy has evolved into a composite regime that combines the rule of the people with the rule of the law. Constitutionalism—that is the development of counterweights to the unbalanced supremacy of the people—developed rapidly after the Second World War in European democracies under the influence of the American model. Enforceable human rights, constitutional courts, the territorial and functional division of powers, all became key features of European democracies. Although there is a broad consensus that democracy is founded on these pillars, there is disagreement over the correct balance between these components of democracy Akkerman, Although there is not yet any agreeable form of democracy for all countries in the world, multiparty democracy is widely seen as one of the best forms given its many advantages compared to other forms of democracy practiced in various countries all over the world.

The President, who also chairs the Movement, maintained that the Movement was not a political party, but a mass organization that claims the loyalty of all Ugandans. Until the referendum, the constitution required the suspension of political parties while the Movement organization is in governance. Other political parties could exist but are prohibited from sponsoring candidates and holding meetings.

Mueseveni maintained that the Movement was not a political party, but a mass organization that claims the loyalty of all Ugandans.


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The old parties were permitted to maintain their headquarters and to issue statements but could not hold rallies or campaign on behalf of candidates for RC elections. This decision stirred fears among adherents of the old parties that the NRM intended to consolidate its hold on power and eventually eliminate them.

Parliament, shall by law, regulate the manner of participation in and financing of elections by individuals seeking political office as independent candidates. They maintain that in reality the movement philosophy and ideology reigns and there has been no fundamental shift in value systems. As a result, party politics will remain peripheral, only tolerated as a necessary evil Larok, The media performed an essential part in our democracy socially and politically. It was the main source of political information and allowed Ugandans to get to know the other side of government. Secondly, information serves a checking function by ensuring that elected representatives uphold their oaths of office and carry out the wishes of those who elected them.

The role of the press to disseminate information as a means of mediating between the state and all facets of civil society remains critical. Yet, since democracy remains a popular notion with many liberal persons and since the media retains a self-image as the plucky defender of the Constitution, the term democracy has been less jettisoned than redefined. From this perspective, democracy—the will of the people—becomes more sanctimonious than a noble ideal, more an impediment to progress than the fairest way to bestow power on leaders Parry, Or, at least, that seems to be so in the often rocky relationship between the media and those in authority, whether in government or big business News Manual Online, Very few governments like a free and unrestrained media.

They dislike the media when it criticizes their policies or performance; they despise journalists when they voice opposing views and they absolutely loath them when they expose corruption in their own ranks. Ironically, politicians in opposition usually love the media when they are doing their best work. It is only when they enter into government that these same politicians suddenly see how awful the media really are.

The media has helped Uganda grow its democracy by emphasizing on issues that may once have been considered strictly political. Due to media intervention, Ugandans now consider politics differently. Under ordinary circumstances, opposition political parties are supposed to act as whistle blowers about things that go wrong within government.

Their allies in this endeavour are supposed to be the media. Because political parties were too weak to pursue this role, it was the media that fed the weak opposition on the goings-on in government. The media thus became both the de facto opposition and the watchdog which is supposed to be its original role. Opposition parties also help to institutionalize a culture where critical views are tolerated. While some governments view this activity as destabilizing, it may be just the opposite since where press freedom is denied, the opposition may turn to more violent forms of expression and protests.

The case to be made is that it should be emphasized that the set of institutions that are likely to promote responsiveness and accountablility must include a structural or institutional view of the media. Particularly, when one is interested in improving the quality of governance, there ought to be a free, plural and independent media system.

It should be seen in the same way as an independent judiciary, legislative bodies, free and fair elections, vibrant civil society and so on Odugbemi, The opinion expressed by the press influences the opinion adopted by the public. Lastly, the issues the media deem important help set the national agenda.

The most basic way the media influence public opinion is by offering knowledge about government decisions and access to government information. The press delivers the raw information to the nation daily, which in turn forms into opinions. Without the media it would take the public longer to become educated about governmental proceedings. The media send messages across the nation. President Yoweri Museveni has quite often threatened to close some media houses and indeed some have been clamped down which has resulted into self-regulation and self-censorship in order for such media to remain in the good books of government.

Print media remains the most vibrant agitator of democratic governance. There are more than 50 FM radio stations and up to seven television stations in and around Kampala alone. The media has provided a platform to both opposition and government representatives to discuss issues. In other instances, instead of government coming out to explain to the public, it has gone a step further by threatening to close down media houses that host opposition figures.

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The opposition leader Retired Colonel Dr. Kiiza Besigye has been barred from addressing people on various radio stations and televisions including the state owned UBC TV.


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  • Some of the print media have even been branded opposition mouthpieces because of their consistent reporting about government excesses. Although radio and TV play a major role in disseminating information, including that on democracy and governance, print media remains the strongest medium of exchange of political discourse especially among the elite population in most urban areas.

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    He has therefore over the years developed a scheme to woo and offer better opportunities to critical journalists to work in different government departments, hence silencing them. It is worrying to see how many resources the government is willing to commit to buying-off journalists, which means the media will remain neutral or not very critical of government. Whether this is practically possible is highly debatable.

    What seems to be obvious is that the current administration led by Yoweri Museveni is buying time in order to stay in power with as little criticism as possible. A few others including the government mouthpiece, The New Vision and the Red Pepper have to some extent also helped to raise important political debates but not to the standards of the former.

    The optimistic view

    Government has often intimidated the media to silence it. A trained lawyer, Leon actively participated in the critical constitutional negotiations that led to the birth of a democratic South Africa. He has been at the forefront of national and international events, both as a front-ranking parliamentarian and renowned orator and writer and as a Vice-President of Liberal International.

    Marian L. Beyond his autobiographies, Leon has been widely published in academic journals and in the media. In he was invited as a fellow to the Cato Institute in Washington DC, where he published a paper on liberal democracy in Africa. You have more support for all you have done than you might ever read about. Website: www. Twitter: TonyLeonSA. Selected Work. No fewer than 48 parties are contesting the election in which each voter will cast two ballots, one for the national legislature and the other for their provincial legislature. South Africa uses a closed list proportional representation system: Voters choose a party, not a candidate.

    Parties are allocated seats in the national and nine provincial legislatures in proportion to their share of the vote.

    The Retreat of African Democracy

    Notably, only a fraction of the parties will win enough votes to take a seat: Right now, 13 parties are currently represented in the national parliament. Only three parties won more than 2.


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    So, despite the plethora of parties and a hotly contested campaign in which parties behave as if the result hinged on a few votes, the election is, really, a contest between two parties, one of which usually wins three times the vote of the other. To understand the dynamic between the two factions vying to control the governing party, further context is needed.

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    Since South Africa became a democracy in , the ANC has won all national elections and has governed all but two provinces continuously in addition to the DA-controlled Western Cape, it was in opposition in the KwaZulu-Natal province from to South African party politics is shaped by identities—parties appeal to very clear sections of the electorate. Race, region, and language are the primary shapers of political loyalty, but smaller parties are able to appeal to various sub-identities.

    The ANC, which dominated the anti-apartheid movement fighting against racial minority rule, takes pride in being the oldest national freedom movement in the world it was formed in As such, the party enjoyed a decades-long position as the largest vehicle for the political identities of most black South Africans.

    While the DA has more black members now and is led by a black man, Mmusi Maimane, this identification largely survives.