“Pan Africanists must change their political fortunes by embracing institutional development, promoting division of labour and allocating right talent to right position”

It is emotionally self-fulfilling to blame the enemy and agents’ provocateurs for the terrible state of pan Africanist organisations worldwide. It is equally emotive to read pieces of work that attribute underperformance of African people oriented organizations to adverse external factors. However these analyses do not cover all the drawbacks and are therefore incomplete. It is easy to blame everyone else for one’s failures where there is lack of serious self introspection. This unhelpful propaganda or limited analysis prevents us from tackling impediments that are hindering successful execution of revolutionary tasks bestowed on us by history.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that Pan Africanism being diametrically opposed to imperialism will be targeted by imperialist forces who will naturally mobilize vast resources to destroy Pan Africanist movements in defence of their interests. There is no question about the seriousness of threats presented by external forces to any organisation advancing African people’s interests for economic independence, self reliance and national self determination. It is nevertheless the supreme duty of revolutionaries to protect and defend revolutionary movements from enemy attacks by building unassailable and incorruptible political institutions.

Pan Africanists have not applied themselves to holistic institutional development of their organisations. Neglecting institutional growth has made Pan Africanist organisations superior on economic and social analysis but highly underdeveloped in developing the necessary capacity to create and sustain a desired social order.

A functioning political, cultural or commercial institution has nine pillars supporting four decision-making echelons. Governance decision-making echelon is concerned with rigid constitutive rules of the institution. Strategy talks to considered long-term approach and formations of institution in the quest to fulfil its historic mandate. Tactics entails decisions on detailed manoeuvres for implementation of strategic decisions. Operational decisions are made of finer details of day-to-day implementation matters. The institution requires appropriate expertise, exposure, experience and information at its disposal for it to function in all these echelons.

An institution should build and maintain all nine pillars to support all organisational echelons. The first pillar is the institutional ideology which explains the reason for the existence of an organisation through scientific analysis of society and its environment. The organisation operates amongst people with diverse interests. It draws its own constituency among the people and it represents the interests and aspirations of this constituency.

Institutional processes define how an organisation go about doing things internal in order to deliver various services to its members, constituency, competitors and people at large or generally execute tasks to fulfil its mandate. Technology is highly utilized to support institutional processes to ensure efficient and effective communication, research, surveillance, analysis and process driven functions. Finance beyond cash is the means to materially support the institution to attain excellence and not be susceptible to emotional whips of its volunteers and this provides the institution with agility and muscle.

Organisational structures are tools that facilitate adequate and appropriate division of labour. Competitors contest for hegemony of their ideas or interests over people through overt or covert means, which may be hostile or sympathetic, related or contradictory and national or international. It is through its campaigns that people, constituency and competitors relate or interface with the institution.

The table below is a fair illustration of status of most Pan Africanist institutions in various parts of the African world, be it political, cultural or commercial. How does your organisation compare to the institutional table below?

  Institutional Governance Institutional Strategy Institutional Tactics Institutional Operations
Ideology Strong Moderate Weak Weak
People Weak Weak Weak Weak
Constituency Weak Weak Weak Moderate
Processes Weak Weak Weak Weak
Technology Weak Weak Weak Weak
Finances Weak Weak Weak Weak
Finances Weak Weak Weak Weak
Structures Weak Weak Weak Moderate
Competitors Weak Weak Weak Moderate
Campaigns Weak Weak Moderate Strong

The alignment between ideological objectives and campaigns is missing in Pan Africanist organisations. There are many leaders sleeping on job. Individual leaders try to be specialists in every aspect of the institution and thus prevent others from playing their part. Every pillar requires a different set of personal attributes, talent and expertise on each decision-making echelon.

Pan Africanists must change their political fortunes by embracing institutional development, promoting division of labour and allocating right talent to right position. We should stop institutionalising instability by emphasising some pillars while ignoring other pillars of the institution, encouraging incompetence by mismatching talent versus positional requirements and breeding incapability by concentrating power or decision making to a single office or an individual instead of empowering all structures within the institution.

By Sbusiso Xaba

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