Would your party pick integrity over poll win?

SA party suspended candidate over sexual misconduct claims

In Summary

• The Good Party suspended popular retired rugby coach Peter de Villiers

Image: OZONE

Imagine you ran a political party that needed every vote it could get in a forthcoming election. But then one of your candidates, who would ordinarily attract many voters, got caught up in a sexual misconduct complaint from a party member.

I know some people would try to sweep the matter under the carpet and clear the way for their attractive candidate, while others might just ignore the problem and hope it would go away. But how many would decide that an as-yet unproven claim of sexual misconduct would be enough to suspend the candidate until the matter was sorted out one way or the other, even if it affected your election chances?

In South Africa recently, one of the smaller political parties nationally, has taken the third option outlined above, and as it could end up being for them, they have stuck by their guns on an issue of integrity.

The Good Party, founded in 2018 by veteran politician and former mayor of Cape Town Patricia De Lille, has recently summarily suspended popular retired rugby coach Peter de Villiers from all party activities after receiving a complaint of sexual misconduct from a party member.

Suspending De Villiers, who last year was made a member of the Western Cape provincial legislature after having served as a councillor, the party said its constitution is unambiguous on gender relations and gender-based violence. “The constitution applies to all members, regardless of position.”

The party was quick to point out that the suspension was not a finding of guilt, but that it was just a reflection of the seriousness of the allegations.

The party has immediately set in motion its disciplinary procedures and processes to determine whether or not the provisions of its constitution have been breached.

For me, this is a true reflection of the “haki na ukweli”, or transparency and good governance, that certain young opposition political parties in Kenya had once promised voters and Kenyans in general before they decided that was just political rhetoric to win votes.

Interestingly, the person De Villiers replaced in the provincial legislature also left office under a cloud of allegations of wrongdoing.

I remember that at the time he took office, I was in Cape Town, reporting on the politics at the legislature. De Villiers was careful not to gloat over his predecessor’s misfortune and said he respected the man but that it was unfortunate that he had made the mistakes that saw his party membership terminated.

Meanwhile, in the UK, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is being asked to support the passing of a new rule that would block people convicted of sexual offences from running for Parliament ahead of the next General Election in that country, which is widely expected before the year ends.

It was reported in the Guardian newspaper that “at least six MPs have lost their seats because of alleged sexual misconduct since the 2019 General Election, and 10 MPs have been suspended from their parties pending investigations.”

The newspaper reported that while all British political parties have their own procedures for vetting parliamentary hopefuls, there is a growing belief that there needs to be formal rules to block relevant candidates as this would make it easier to “weed out the bad apples”.

The municipal governance space in the UK adopted a formal ban on sex offenders standing in council elections, including mayoral elections, in 2022.

Of course, there is no fear that such rules would ever come to force in Kenya, and even if they did, I doubt they would be enforced. 

You may remember how in 2017, MPs were in uproar over a provision in the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill that wanted to criminalise staring at women in a lecherous manner, despite being told about the very obvious discomfort women experience as some men tend to undress them with their eyes every time they are in the same space.

We have miles to go in the integrity space as far as such advances are concerned.

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