PNM: Avoiding the Pitfall of Decline

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
July 19, 2021

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeTwo weeks ago South Africa’s Constitutional Court sentenced Jacob Zuma to 15 months in prison for contempt of court. He refused to appear at a government enquiry committee that was looking into the corruption that took place during his nine-year rule. The party (ANC) began to run the state as though it was just another arm of the party, and therein lay its downfall.

Within a week of the court’s decision, South Africa saw its worst public violence in decades. Two hundred and twelve people were killed, and about 200 malls around Johannesburg were ransacked. Stock valued at an estimated US$1 billion (was stolen… with at least 800 retail shops looted. On Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the riots “were an attempt to hijack South Africa’s democracy” (BBC News, July 16).

While things are not so dire in T&T, a once-proud PNM is letting its guard down as it intertwines the roles of its party leaders with the offices of the State. Although the party is not looting the State, its leaders have become so embroiled in running the Government that they can hardly carry out their party duties.

A few quick examples will suffice. Colm Imbert is the Minister of Finance, one of the most demanding positions in the Government, yet he is the chairman of the party. Foster Cummings is the secretary of the party and representative of La Horquetta/Talparo, the most populous constituency in the country. Camille Robinson-Regis, Lady Vice-Chairman of the party, is also the Minister of Planning and Development. Rohan Sinanan is a deputy leader and Minister of Works and Transportation; Fitzgerald Hinds, a deputy leader, is Minister of National Security, the most consequential ministry.

While I do not wish to impugn the integrity or the hard-working ethic of any of these gentle people, these ministers cannot do their party work and yet carry out their Government functions efficiently. They have little communication with the ordinary party member, which led one member to complain: “The only way a MP will be in the field is if there is a major problem in the constituency which may be highlighted by the media. Then he or she is there.”

The demands on these ministers place a lot of responsibility on Dr Rowley’s shoulders. Other than Dr Rowley, no one is left to defend the party. Occasionally, the Women’s League comes out in his and the party’s defence. While the public relations officer is a faithful party member and possesses an ebullient personality, she does not have the gravitas or political skills to command the attention of the party or the public. The chairman’s voice is silent on these matters so that everything political is thrown back into the hands of the political leader.

Understandably, the pandemic prevented the meetings of party groups, constituency groups and the General Council. Today, enthusiasm is lacking in the party. The chairman of a political party group told me that s/he could not get a quorum of five people to hold a regular meeting. Such a gap leaves the door open for the leaders to make unilateral decisions. Since the communication between the Government and the party is at a low level, everything is left to Dr Rowley who acts as the czar of the party.

There needs to be a greater separation between the party and the state so that the party can get back into the business of listening to its members and advocating on their behalf. The leaders and the members should think seriously about reorganising the party so that it reflects the realities of the present time. The party leaders should not hold so many top positions in the Government. It prevents them from carrying out their party functions and weakens the cohesion between party members and their leaders.

This is Dr Rowley’s last term in office as the political leader. Needless to say, there is “cut throat galore” going on to replace him. One correspondent suggested: “Dr Rowley must take the bull by the horns and put an end to the fighting among egoistical, power-hungry members who cannot fit into shoes of past stalwarts like Patrick Manning, George Chambers, Bunny Padmore, John Donaldson and Cuthbert Joseph.”

Recently, one of my best friends reminded me of Kwame Ture’s distinction between mobilisation, organisation and people’s involvement in deepening the process of democratic engagement. He noted: “Mobilisation concerns an event; organisation is an eternal process,” by which he meant an ongoing process. More important, there can be no sustainable change in an organisation if the ordinary person (or the ordinary cadre) is not involved in the fundamental thinking-through of this new order.

When the ANC ousted Zuma from power in 2018 and replaced him with Ramaphosa, it felt that it had begun a process of weaning the post-apartheid nation from what had been described as the “state capture” or the systematic looting of the state by its former revolutionary leaders. When Zuma refused to participate in the enquiry into the state capture by his party, we knew he had forgotten the role of the individual in developing a democratic state. The individual, no matter how gifted, is not bigger than the party. At this point, hubris becomes the undoing of the individual. Every member has a right to vie for the leadership of the party. However, s/he must have a vision of where she/he wants to take the party, an ability to lead and to organise the party in the third decade of this century. Reorganisation, therefore, is the key to a successful regeneration of the PNM.

One hopes the party can embrace this challenge to move in that direction. Therein lies its future greatness.

7 thoughts on “PNM: Avoiding the Pitfall of Decline”

  1. Great Article. We await the show of integrity by similar analysis on Kamla’s leadership of the UNC, her streak of elections losses since 2015 and refusal to step down, the cut-throat “next in line” culture in the UNC among her peers etc.

  2. I am not sure I agree with the equivalence with the ANC in South Africa. Nelson Mandela had a lot of accomplished lieutenants during the struggle that when he departed many could have naturally fit in. The South African situation was totally different from ours. The majority dehumanized, castrated, deprived, jailed and deliberately cut off from the administration of their ancestral land. The only thing they had going for them was the motivation to uplift themselves from inferiority to contesting relevance. So, with such a struggle to nationhood, there were many layers of leadership to contest the brutality of apartheid. What was lacking in the leadership was the ability to integrate with the economic powers that be. In the meantime, those who now are exposed to freedom had little in terms of infrastructure to advance their economic future. Unlike Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki before him, Zuma used the presidency to enrich himself (he had about five wives) and therefore exposed himself to nepotism and greed rather than uplifting the lives of those who have just emerged from domination. This in a nutshell, is what occurred with the ANC. The PNM on the other hand knows how to govern. They have many many many years of such experience, so governance is not their problem. What one can envision is succession after Rowley. It is unfair to judge communications or lack of it while we are still in the lockdown mode of covid19. This virus, like nothing experienced before it has taught us to communicate in different and other visionary ways, so it will take a while to re-emerge with our fellow men.
    The kind of people who accept the PNM as their party of choice, are understanding and intelligent people who are aware that after covid we will have to rebuild. So, Dr, Cudjoe give them time and if nothing changes, then I will accept your conjecture but for now I think you are way too early in your conclusions.

    1. I think the Professor is just ‘playing cute’ with this article.. SA has so much in common with TT, that it is frightening to see the ‘ethnic confrontation’ play out on the streets there.. Yet, they are better off than Afro-Trinbagonians.. We doh have ‘Black Economic Empowerment’ in TT.. or any form of Affirmative Action as they do.. 98% of all UWI medical students are Indian, State Contracts, Media, etc, etc.
      Some say that this ‘buffer class’ system was hatched right here in TT, by the son of a director of the British East Indian Company, William Burnley..
      No mention of The Guptas.. who were appointing ministers in an ANC government (Hello Gary Griffith).. No mention of how this system affects places like Kenya (40% of their economy is controlled by Indians) and Guyana..
      How can someone come into your home, bring in Rajkumar to live in the guess room, put you in the basement and, make you the yard boy, in your own ancestral home… and this madness must continue, because people like the Professor are concerned for the ‘stability of the state’, with his BS article.. Please..

      Anyway, the definition of State Capture, according to Wiki:
      State capture is a type of systemic political corruption in which private interests significantly influence a state’s decision-making processes to their own advantage.

      1. Okay, my opinion of ramk has made a 180 degree turn…i hope it stays that way. However, ‘ “black” economic employment’ is aFARCE, just like affirmative action in the U.S. , because loopholes were left and expoloited to extend what was meant for african people, for EVERYONE!….thereby nullifying the original purpose. In the U.S. , Gender (white women), Sexual orientation (white gay men) and “minority” status were snuck into affirmative action, so that whites, white jews, asians, non-african gays, non-african women (indians), indian caribbeans, ALL crowded affirmative action and deprived african americans what they fought for, while stealing their jobs, undermining them socially and politically, while HATING THEM! In South Africa,, because of the Black Economic Empowerment programme (BEE), Indians and now chinese et al define themselves as “Black”?, even though they HATE “blackness” and african people. In Kenya, in recent years, the indian community, bribed their way into legal “ancestral kenyan tribe” status, in order to circumvent the indigenous kenyan legal protective mechanism that protected indigenous africans from being robbed of their lands, because only they could own large acreage of lands.

        Lord Abraham Mutai on Twitter: “Majority of Indians in Kenya hate Black Kenyans. They demean blacks at their place of work, pay them little and they are racists.”

        It’s time to confront anti-Blackness in Asian-African communities

        British South Asians Speak Out About Anti-Black Racism Within Their Communities

        South Asian anti-black racism: ‘We don’t marry black people’

      1. Mamoo, I will not allow myself to be drawn into the pettiness of name calling and insults in order to make a point. As a matter of fact, when you start going there, it is an indication that you have lost the ability to reason. When I am no longer able to stand my ground with intelligence, I refrain from indulgence. I recognize that some people would rather their opinions prevail when knowledge no longer suits their purpose. But we are in a public forum and facts can always be ascertained when they are sort. For some, facts are not ‘sexy’ enough to establish truth the way they see it. It is at this point when they use opinions to augment their short comings. If you are soliciting my indulgence and expects me to behave like that Indian woman from Texas, then I am sorry to disappoint you. I am available for a good argument but I have better things to do than engage in stupidity.

  3. The unregenerate black man is a danger to himself, his family and the nation. By unregenerate I mean the ones who think that it is okay to upset the natural order of society because their carnal appetite. Zuma is such a man, power, women, money, he had no time for his people who lived in squalor.
    Zuma was corrupted by power or did power corrupt him. His many wives alone can answer that question. Zuma had/have six wives. It’s estimated he has between 20-22 children in total. Fifteen with his spouses, and between 5-7 with other lovers. The bed of Zuma was never empty always a notch for every conquest. South Africans foot the bills for his insatiable appetite for the enjoyment of women.

    Durban South Africa has been hit the hardest by the looters. , over 51% of residents are Black African. Nearly one-quarter of the population is Indian or Asian, while 15.3% are White, and 8.6% are designated as Coloured. The largest ethnic group are the Zulus. The Indians own a lot of businesses in Durban, the port being one of the busiest for trade. They were the main target of the Zulus who work for many of these businesses.

    Rowley like Zuma is rumoured to have fathered more children than he put on his political profile. Two daughters and their spouses but two other sons show up.. along with a string of other women. Some got housing when he was Minister of housing and no doubt there are more children out there. Like Zuma he has no clue how he became Prime Minister at what he doing. Soon Trinis will wake up to that reality

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