Democracy and good governance is dependent on political parties, media and civil society
No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent. The other part has to decide and agree to be ruled by the other and this is what is said to be governed. Governance and democracy require that the majority decide what they need to be, who to do what they need and not the minority, Lincoln (1994).
This paper attempts to discuss the assertion that the issue of democracy and good governance is dependent on political parties, media and civil society. The paper will start with brief definitions of key terms and then establish its position with examples drawn from the Zambian situation.
The issue of democracy and good governance is crucial as far as running the affairs of a particular country is concerned. It cannot be subjected to political parties, media and civil society alone but it is vaster than mare political enchantments, media or civil society scams from certain individuals in the community. This view of perceiving the scope and boundaries of democracy and good governance is backed up by a number of scholars. For example, Lincoln (1994:83) says “Democracy and governance are influenced by many factors in the society ranging from political, social, economic and cultural…. These factors are at the core centre of democracy, rule of law and good governance in a particular country”.
While it’s true that the issue of democracy and good governance is dependent on political parties, media and civil society, there are many other factors that influence the course of democracy and good governance in a particular society. For example, the activism and radicalism of citizens in a county or speech community can be one of the beacons on which democracy and good governance lies. In a community where citizens are so critical, ready to die for their rights and violate in an attempt to bring peace and justice to their fellow citizens, democracy and good governance may not be entirely dependent on political parties, media and civil society. The concepts democracy and governance are relative terms driven by the people especially those with authority and power. Individuals who are said to have authority and power, normally political leaders have a lot of influence in their immediate environments as they control the political system of a particular country, media and civil society through their machinery system. Therefore, if those in authority and power control the affairs of a particular community, it would be prudent to argue that the issue of democracy and good governance is dependent on political parties, media and civil society because all these units of the society are controlled by the same forces.
Democracy and good governance are dependent on political parties in the sense that the people in power, those running the government or those identified as leaders in certain political parties has a lot of influence in the different domains of the society: the market, school, civil service, hospitals, churches and on other groupings. In ordinary times, when we speak of a democracy, we mean a country. In a democratic country, the people choose how they will be governed. Most of the time, they do this by electing leaders who run the government. However, there is more than one type of democracy. In a pure democracy, elected leaders simply carry out the wishes of the voters. But this is not easy to do. Voters must get together often to tell elected leaders what they want. They must take part in many, many decisions, (Encarta, 2009). Most democratic countries are republics, not pure democracies. In a republic, elected leaders are supposed to do what they think is best. Then, if the voters don’t like it, they can elect new leaders.
Democracy and good governance are dependent on political parties because they are naturally oriented to a political system in which the people of a country rule through any form of government they choose to establish. In modern democracies, supreme authority is exercised for the most part by representatives elected by popular suffrage. The representatives may be supplanted by the electorate according to the legal procedures of recall and referendum, and they are, at least in principle, responsible to the electorate. In many republic countries like Zambia, the executive head of government is elected while the others like the legislature are just appointed by the government. It’s important here to note that the term democracy may involve systems of delegating the power to govern to their elected representatives. In a republic, however, these officials are expected to act on their own best judgment of the needs and interests of the country. The officials in a democracy more generally and directly reflect the known or ascertained views of their constituents, sometimes subordinating their own judgment
Democracy and good governance refer to the state of being based on the concept that sovereignty resides in the people, who delegate the power to rule in their behalf to elected representatives and officials. In the case of Zambia and in practice, however, this concept has been variously stretched, distorted, and corrupted, making any precise definition of the term republic difficult. It is important, to begin with, to distinguish between a republic and a democracy. In the theoretical republican state, where the government expresses the will of the people who have chosen it, republic and democracy may be identical. Democracy and good governance are dependent on political parties as they influence how to determine the means and ways of empowering the Zambian citizenry in coping with the new democratic dispensation. It tends to assist the development of democratic process in Zambia as well as promote Justice. This is done through increasing and creating awareness amongst citizens about their duties and responsibilities under the Constitution. Under democracy and good governance it is believed that in the execution of duties and responsibilities that bestow rights, privileges and equality for all before the Law by those put in power is the only way of running a peaceful nation.
It is also true that the issue of democracy and good governance is heavily dependent on the media. Media in this context refers to television, newspapers, and radio collectively. It is also referring to the various means of mass communication considered as a whole, including television, radio, magazines, and newspapers, together with the people involved in their productions. Since the media is used to communicate, inform and edutain people in the various domains of life, it plays a critical role in the in addressing the issue of democracy and good governance.
The power that lies in media has great influence in determining the course of democracy and good governance in a country. The media informs people on the ideals and ideologies of democracy and good governance. It enlightens people to respect the trends and tenets of good governance. While it is true that without media, people would not know what is going on around them, people also need to acknowledge the presence of other factors on which democracy is dependent on. Through the media, Journalism, gathering, evaluating, and distributing facts of current interest and what is going on within the country would strengthen the stance and power of democracy and good governance. In journalism, reporters research and write stories for print and electronic distribution, often with the guidance of editors or producers. The earliest journalists produced their stories for news sheets, circulars, newspapers, and periodicals. With technological advances, journalism came to include other media, such as radio, documentary or newsreel films, television, and the Internet with a view sensitizing citizens on what is happening in the immediate communities.
In Zambia, the media include newspapers like the post newspaper, Guardian angel, Global, Times and daily mail. It also includes radios, televisions and internet available to provide the ideals and principles of democracy, good governance where it exist. Largely for economic reasons, including competition from television, radio and the number of local daily newspapers in Zambia has increased in number from a few to so many. A major trend affecting newspapers in todays world in Zambia is their incorporation into newspaper chains—ownership of a number of newspapers by a single company. By 2000 only about less than ten cities in Zambia had separately owned competing newspapers. The major radio and television stations, even when independently owned, have become affiliated with networks that provide much of their news and other program materials that oriented towards democracy and good governance.
In Zambia, it is clear that the issue of democracy and good governance is dependent partly on the media and with what is portrayed to the society. The media in Zambia has been manifested in so many forms. For instance, new technologies continue to bring about changes in journalism. Television satellites, for example, enable viewers in one part of the world to witness live events occurring in another and facilitate new forms of video news distribution. Reporters can summon from data banks information that previously would have taken them days or weeks to assemble. Wire-service copy can be set in type automatically at a subscribing newspaper without the services of a local editor or printer. The bottom line is that all these media houses are there to communicate to the masses the information or news needed. Lincoln, (1994) says the aim of these media houses is to have a nation where people’s rights are respected and upheld by all in a democratic way. In line with this, some media houses in Zambia provides free legal advice, information dissemination and awareness raising on children’s rights and child related legislations. Free legal advice is provided to the indigent but especially children who need legal assistance. Information dissemination is provided to communities and law enforcement officers such as police officers, labour officers and social welfare officers. Media houses also raises awareness and provides materials on people’s rights and child related legislations to the public. The media aims to contribute to a campaign aimed at lobbying for legal prohibition of corporal, humiliating and degrading punishment of children in all settings including the home and to promote positive disciplining of people. Therefore, the issue of democracy and good governance is dependent on the media.
In Zambia, the issue of democracy and good governance is also dependent on civil society. Ideally, civil society refers to groupings comprising the ideals of ordinary citizens comprising workers and non workers. It is relating to what happens within a state or between different citizens or groups of citizens. Therefore, the manner in which citizens react to facts, ideals and issues surrounding them will also determine the course of democracy and good governance in that way. In Zambia, the issue of democracy and good governance is also dependent on civil society as leaders at times act to respect the needs and aspirations of the citizens, Lincoln, (1994).
It is evident that the issue of democracy and good governance is heavily dependent on civil society. For Zambia, the civil society is exposed to civic knowledge which is concerned with the content or what citizens ought to know. It is important that everyone has an opportunity to consider the essential questions about government and civil society that continue to challenge thoughtful people. People are made to understand exactly what civic life, politics, and government is Farkins (2008), NAEP (1998). This helps citizens make informed judgments about the nature of civic life, politics, and government, and why politics and government are necessary; the purposes of government; the essential characteristics of limited and unlimited government; the nature and purposes of constitutions, and alternative ways of organizing constitutional governments. Consideration of this question should promote greater understanding of the nature and importance of civil society or the complex network of freely formed, voluntary political, social, and economic associations which is an essential component of a constitutional democracy. A vital civil society not only prevents the abuse or excessive concentration of power by government; the organizations of civil society serve as public laboratories in which citizens learn democracy by doing it. Knowledge of the ideals, values, and principles set forth in the nation’s core documents serves an additional and useful purpose. Those ideals, values, and principles are criteria which citizens can use to judge the means and ends of government, as well as the means and ends of the myriad groups that are part of civil society. This also helps citizens understand and evaluate the limited government they have ordained and established and the complex dispersal and sharing of powers it entails. Citizens who understand the justification for this system of limited, dispersed, and shared power and its design are better able to hold their governments-local, state, and national-accountable and to ensure that the rights of individuals are protected. They also will develop a considered appreciation of the place of law in the Zambian political system, as well as of the unparalleled opportunities for choice and citizen participation that the system makes possible.
The issue of democracy and good governance is also dependent on civil society because they determine the roles of citizens in Zambian democracy and this is of particular importance. Citizenship in a constitutional democracy means that each citizen is a full and equal member of a self governing community and is endowed with fundamental rights and entrusted with responsibilities. Citizens should understand that through their involvement in political life and in civil society, they can help to improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods, communities, and nation. If they want their voices to be heard, they must become active participants in the political process. Although elections, campaigns, and voting are central to democratic institutions, citizens should learn that beyond electoral politics many participatory opportunities are open to them. Finally, they should come to understand that the attainment of individual goals and public goals tend to go hand in hand with participation in political life and civil society. They are more likely to achieve personal goals for themselves and their families, as well as the goals they desire for their communities, state, and nation, if they are informed, effective, and responsible citizens, Lincoln, (1994).
The issue of democracy and good governance is dependent on civil society in the sense that if citizens are to exercise their rights and discharge their responsibilities as members of self-governing communities in Zambia, they not only need to acquire a body of knowledge such as that embodied in the five organizing questions just described; they also need to acquire relevant intellectual and participatory skills. Intellectual skills in civics and government are inseparable from content, NAEP (1998).
To be able to think critically about a political issue, for example, one must have an understanding of the issue, its history, its contemporary relevance, as well as command of a set of intellectual tools or considerations useful in dealing with such an issue.
The intellectual skills essential for informed, effective, and responsible citizenship sometimes are called critical thinking skills. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) categorize these skills as identifying and describing; explaining and analyzing; and evaluating, taking, and defending positions on public issues. A good civic education enables one to identify or give the meaning or significance of things that are tangible such as the flag, national monuments, or civic and political events. It also enables one to give the meaning or significance of intangibles, such as ideas or concepts including patriotism, majority and minority rights, civil society, and constitutionalism. The ability to identify emotional language and symbols is of particular importance for citizens. They need to be able to discern the true purposes for which emotive language and symbols are being employed. Another intellectual skill which good civic education fosters is that of describing. The ability to describe functions and processes such as legislative checks and balances or judicial review is indicative of understanding. Discerning and describing trends, such as participation in civic life, immigration, or employment helps the citizen fit current events into a longer term pattern.
Democracy and good governance in good civic education seeks to develop competence in explaining and analyzing. If citizens can explain how something should work, they will be more able to detect and help correct malfunctions. Citizens also need to be able to analyze such things as the components and consequences of ideas, social, political, or economic processes, and institutions. The ability to analyze enables one to distinguish between fact and opinion or between means and ends. It also helps the citizen to clarify responsibilities such as those between personal and public responsibilities or those between elected or appointed officials and citizens. In a self-governing society citizens are decision-makers. They need, therefore, to develop and continue to improve their skills of evaluating, taking, and defending positions. These skills are essential if citizens are to assess issues on the public agenda, to make judgments about issues and to discuss their assessment with others in public or private, Farkins (2008).
Farkins (2008) says the acquisition of knowledge and intellectual skills, education for citizenship in a democratic society must focus on skills that are required for informed, effective, and responsible participation in the political process and in civil society. Those skills can be categorized as interacting, monitoring, and influencing. Interacting pertains to the skills citizens need to communicate and to work cooperatively with others. To interact is to be responsive to one’s fellow citizens. To interact is to question, to answer, and to deliberate with civility, as well as to build coalitions and to manage conflict in a fair, peaceful manner. Monitoring politics and government refers to the skills citizens need to track the handling of issues by the political process and by government. Monitoring also means the exercising of oversight or “watchdog” functions on the part of citizens. Finally, the participatory skill of influencing refers to the capacity to affect the processes of politics and governance, both the formal and the informal processes of governance in the community.
The issue of democracy and good governance is dependent on civil society which is related to civic dispositions, referring to the traits of private and public character essential to the maintenance and improvement of constitutional democracy. civil society, like civic skills, develop slowly over time and as a result of what one learns and experiences in the home, school, community, and organizations of civil society. Those experiences should engender understanding that democracy requires the responsible self governance of each individual; one cannot exist without the other. Traits of private character such as moral responsibility, self discipline, and respect for the worth and human dignity of every individual are imperative. Traits of public character are no less consequential. Such traits as public spiritedness, civility, respect for the rule of law, critical mindedness, and willingness to listen, negotiate, and compromise are indispensable to democracy’s success. Civic dispositions that contribute to the political efficacy of the individual, the healthy functioning of the political system, a sense of dignity and worth, and the common good were identified in the National Standards for Civics and Government. In the interest of brevity, those dispositions or traits of private and public character might be described as:
Becoming an independent member of society. This disposition encompasses adhering voluntarily to self-imposed standards of behavior rather than requiring the imposition of external controls, accepting responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions and fulfilling the moral and legal obligations of membership in a democratic society. Assuming the personal, political, and economic responsibilities of a citizen. These responsibilities include taking care of one’s self, supporting one’s family and caring for, nurturing, and educating one’s children. They also include being informed about public issues, voting, paying taxes, serving on juries, performing public service, and serving in leadership positions commensurate with one’s talents. Respecting individual worth and human dignity. Respecting others means listening to their opinions, behaving in a civil manner, considering the rights and interests of fellow citizens, and adhering to the principle of majority rule but recognizing the right of the minority to dissent. Participating in civic affairs in a thoughtful and effective manner. This disposition entails becoming informed prior to voting or participating in public debate, engaging in civil and reflective discourse, and assuming leadership when appropriate. It also entails evaluating whether and when one’s obligations as a citizen require that personal desires and interests be subordinated to the public good and evaluating whether and when one’s obligations or constitutional principles obligate one to reject certain civic expectations. Promoting the healthy functioning of constitutional democracy. This disposition encompasses being informed and attentive to public affairs, learning about and deliberating on constitutional values and principles, monitoring the adherence of political leaders and public agencies to those values and principles and taking appropriate action if adherence is lacking. This disposition also inclines the citizen to work through peaceful, legal means to change laws that are thought to be unwise or unjust, NAEP (1998).
It can be concluded that the issue of democracy and good governance is dependent on political parties, media and civil society as shown in the paper. The paper has also made references to the Zambian situation reciting specific instances. It should noted here that the issue of democracy and good governance is critical in the lives of citizens. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there, it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it.
Farkins (2008) Governanace in Africa. Pretoria: South Africa.
Lincoln, D. (1994). The Role of Democracy and Good Governance. USA: Brookslin.
NAEP (1998). The National Standards for Civics and Government and the Civics Framework for the 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
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