Intra-party democracy is a new area of research and campaign work in South Africa. Political parties are the lifeblood of our democracy and need to be owned by and accountable to the public. Proponents of intra-party democracy argue that the level of commitment to uphold democratic governance by a party can be assessed by looking into its internal level of democracy. Deepening intra-party democracy will, therefore, deepen our democracy.
Until now, MVC’s work has been shift public perception primarily through showing how parties work. We will shift this towards mobilising people behind a larger and deeper campaign where people have greater power over how parties run.
We have recently released the first part of our research titled An Intervention to Deepen Democracy and Accountability in South African Politics.
The paper explores what intra-democracy (IPD) is, recognising that it is a contested concept and there is no singular definition of what it means to have internal democracy within a political party. The argument is put forward that insufficient levels of intra-party democracy in our political parties – especially the governing African National Congress (ANC) – has negatively impacted our political system, to the detriment of the public good. As a result, it has undermined accountability, with very real consequences for the lives of everyone in the country, but especially the poor and marginalised.
The paper recognises that political parties in South Africa all practice IPD to various degrees, despite not being compelled by any specific party law to adopt and implement IPD in a specific way. The position of the paper is not that there is no democracy in our political parties, but that more needs to be done to make parties more inclusive and provide deeper and more meaningful ways for members, especially at the lower levels, to participate and direct the trajectory of parties.