For those who believe they have seen the bad of factions in political parties: You haven’t seen anything yet. The worst is coming.
Often accompanied by a song here and a dance there, we will be treated to more episodes of interparty fights and slurs. It will be rough.
When this happens, the character, language and identity of political parties will conform to that of the faction in control. Factions will become parties and parties will become factions.
This will mark the beginning of the end of political parties as we know them.
Well, this is to be expected. Political parties are like a sweet-and-sour combo with everything in them. They have progressives, reactionaries, workers and delinquents of all sorts, each with defined interests. What becomes of parties is a mediated reflection of these different flavours.
Society is no different.
Think of that clique in church that wants to see the back of the reverend for no reason. Or the uncles who believe they alone are entitled to the family’s inheritance.
These groups of individuals disrupt, connive, gossip and manipulate. This is all in a day’s work for factions.
At best, internal party processes are rigged – and at worst, ignored. At every opportunity, factions find ways to undermine. Party constitutions are no longer the glue that preserves their unity, but instruments of reward and punishment for the dominant faction.
Of course, parties will remain the lasting feature of politics.
Now and then, we will be reminded that party principles matter. Statements about the party unity will be made, door-to-door campaigns undertaken, rallies held.
As factional interests override all other things, principles will no longer matter. If a mayor should stay in a position despite poor service delivery, so be it. If black economic empowerment should not be the basis for economic redress, that is just fine.
Factions will erode party systems, and othering others will become the norm.
This conduct will breed disillusionment, and parties will take a knock during the elections. After all, factions are as strong as society makes them. Their longevity lies not so much in their members as in their supporters. So, the fewer the members devoted to societal needs, the more the support for the party.
Bad as this picture may be, there is a good side to factions too. Worried about the influence of one faction, another might emerge with intentions to save the party from self-destructive behaviour. Mistakes are admitted and parties begin to renew themselves. Processes are enhanced and discipline is maintained.
Factions entrench diversity and inclusion of many voices that form part of the whole of political parties. This enhances democracy, builds party consensus and ensures inclusive decision-making. No one is overlooked.
The opposite can be disastrous and a recipe for dissent, frustration and withdrawal from the party. Factions are as old as humankind and are here to stay.
For the sake of their survival, parties need to lessen the damage they can cause and embrace the opportunities they present.
How can we ever forget that we are where we are as a country because of the desire for unity?