Does Factionalism Strengthen The Party?


By Dr Masimba Mavaza | Typologies, Intra-Party dynamics and three Faces of Factionalism the conceptualization of factionalism in political parties takes a different view if we consider its importance in a democratic environment.

Following an ugly encounter with the ugly face of factionalism in the party one can argue that the analytical approach based on typologies and categories of sub party groups is not very useful in explaining intra-party behavior and the process of change because, by their nature, these are static tools.

Building on the events in ZANU PF we focus on intra-party dynamics instead of organizational forms of faction. Factionalism should be viewed in non-exclusive terms, such as a dynamic process of subgroup partitioning. It is a multi faceted phenomenon that can transform itself over time in response to incentives. Based on the events in ZANU PF we identify three main faces of factionalism: cooperative, competitive and degenerative.

It is suggested that the process of change may occur in a cycle that contributes to party disintegration, as illustrated by the current events which imploded in the nasty personal fight under the centrifugal pulls of its factions.

It is true to say factionalism is a fact of life within most political parties and mostly divided in ethnic or tribal grounds. Political parties are not monolithic structures but collective entities in which competition, divided opinions and dissent create internal pressures. In turn, these pressures often trigger the formation of factions that render the party divided.

Although widespread, factionalism is still a relatively under-studied phenomenon. In political grounds of Zimbabwe it is not a new beginning. From ZANU PF to the opposition factionalism has raised its great head but never has it threatened to destroy the ruling party. However, this analytical approach has turned out to be a bit of a minefield.

However, with a static view of factionalism in ZANU PF it cannot capture group dynamics and explain the process of change. It has failed to provide convincing and parsimonious answers to key questions, such as why some political parties contain factions while ZANU PF struggles with it why factions become embedded inside some parties but not in others, and why factionalism grows and transforms over time,

It is argued that factionalism is a multifaceted phenomenon which can transform itself over time in response to incentives. The incentives are mostly the need for positions of influence in the party. Factionalism is a total abuse of democracy. Mostly people form groups of like mind in order to wrestle the power from the incumbent. In this vein, the effects of factionalism are felt heavily in the government. The factious cabinet which can not work together as a unit sabotages the core business of the day. The fight for party positions spreads as cancer to the government business. Surely it is the innocent masses who suffer while the factious buffoons are feeling their bellies at the expense of the electorate.
factionalism ignores the impact of institutions such as electoral systems and bicameralism on the career motivations and strategic behaviour of politicians. It only concentrates on the selfish ends which benefits individuals. What the factionalist Forgets is that nobody is bigger than the party.
The intra-party dissent and factional conflict in specific parties at different points in time, especially in Zimbabwe destroys the voter confidence.
The intra-party politics, party cohesion and the role of party factions in legislative politics is always blanketed by the ugly results of the factionalism.
Zimbabweans regards factions as divisive and potentially dangerous to the government.
People have blamed factions for sustaining corruption for encouraging favouritism and graft among elected officials and for squelching competition between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’
Those who are rich in the party becomes untouchables and grow big heads. They throw away all the party procedures and direct all the glory to themselves. This destroys the confidence of the true cadres.
The masses are bribed and the stalwarts are undermined. Factions are formed on monetary and not ideological basis.
All having been said factionalism destroys parties and cripples the government. In all this nonsense it is the people who suffer.

As the old Zimbabwean saying goes. Were two elephants fight it is the grass which suffers.

How long will the grass suffer before the elephants stop the fight.

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