Saturday, April 20, 2024

Three Branches of Government: Myth or Reality?

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By Henry Kyambalesa

By and large, sovereign nations-states worldwide claim to be governed through three ‘independent’ organs or branches of government—that is, the law-making or legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch. This, in the words of Farese, Kimbrell and Woloszyk (2009:125), “provides a system of checks and balances that prevents any one branch of government from becoming too powerful.”

1. The legislative branch of government in any given democratic country is generally composed of elected members. In some
democracies, the executive President or Prime Minister is permitted to nominate a small number of citizens to join the legislative branch.In this respect, it would be advisable for a country’s executive president or prime minister to fill Cabinet-level positions with individuals who are not elected Members of Parliament in order to provide for greater independence of the legislative and executive organs of government.

Besides, such a move can provide the executive president or prime minister with a larger pool of competent citizens from which he or she can constitute the Cabinet, afford aspirants for the top position in the executive branch enough time to identify potential ministerial appointees well before elections rather than waiting for elections of lawmakers to be concluded, as well as reduce the work overload on government officials who have to handle both ministerial and legislative functions.

2. The executive branch is essentially headed by an elected executive president or prime minister. (Note: Some countries’ constitutions provide for the executive president or prime minister to fill positions in his or her Cabinet with elected members of the legislative branch of government.)

3. The judicial branch is typically headed by an individual who is nominated by the executive president or prime minister, and who is ordinarily confirmed by members of the legislative branch of government. Besides, the individual serves as a member of the executive president’s or prime minister’s cabinet. As such, the judicial branch is clearly not an ‘independent’ organ of government.

In the United States, for example, the fallacious and questionable ‘independence’ of the head of the judicial branch of the Federal government has been questioned by Gambino (2019) in the following words: “William Barr: Is His Defense of Trump Paving the ‘Road to Tyranny’?”

Besides, the mythical ‘independence’ of the judicial branch of the Federal government in the country was somewhat bemoaned by the late U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings in April 2019, and by former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in the following words (CBS News, 2019 and Hains,2019):“Mr. [William] Barr is acting as the defense counsel for the president of the United States … [when] he’s supposed to be our lawyer, the people’s lawyer.”

And

“Attorney General [William] Barr’s regrettably partisan handling of the Mueller report … [has] resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality.”The use of the words “your Justice Department” and “my Justice Department” in the following statements by George Stephanopoulos of ABC News and Beto O’Rourke, one of several Democratic Party presidential candidates, respectively, clearly demonstrate the fact that the judicial branch in the United States—and in all professed
democratic countries worldwide as a matter of fact—is not ‘independent’ from the executive branch of government (ABC News,
2019):

Stephanopoulos:

“If … you win, if you become president in 2020, would you want your Justice Department to pursue charges against President
Trump?”

O’Rourke:

“I would want my Justice Department … to follow the facts and the truth and to make sure at the end of the day that there is
accountability and justice without [which] … American Democracy comes to a close.”The following excerpt provides another obvious example of the potential for legislative and/or executive branches of a country’s national government to have undue influence on judicial decisions and the composition and operations of the judiciary (Democracy Now, 2020):

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican senators [are reported as having been] … privately contacting
conservative federal judges to urge them to retire, so they can be replaced [by other conservative judges] while Republicans still control the Senate and Trump is in the White House.”

Representative Pramila Jayapal, a U.S. Democratic Party member representing the State of Washington in the U.S. Congress is quoted by
Shortell and Herb (2020) as having taunted William P. Barr, then U.S.Attorney General, during a Congressional hearing in the following words:

“There is a real discrepancy in how you react as the Attorney General, the top cop in this country, when white men with swastikas storm a government building with guns, there is no need for the President to ‘activate’ you, because they’re getting the President’s personal agenda done … [but] when Black people, and people of color protest police brutality, systemic racism and the President’s very own lack of response to those critical issues, then you forcibly remove them with armed federal officers, pepper bombs, because they are considered terrorists by the President.”

There is clearly a need for national leaders worldwide to seriously consider the prospect of subjecting prospective heads of the judicial branch of government to a popular vote by the citizenry in order to make elected heads accountable to the people, make them less vulnerable to the influences of politicians and ideologues, and make them ‘truly’ independent from the whims of the head of the executive branch.

And a country’s Supreme Court Justices, as well as special counsels,would ultimately need to be nominated or appointed by the elected head of the judicial branch and confirmed by the national legislative branch of government in order for them to be ‘independent’ and ‘impartial’ in the dispensation of justice. The term of office of the elected head of the judicial branch should be analogous to that of the executive president or prime minister, and that of members of the legislative branch of the national government.

In the United States, for example, most States (at least 40 out of the country’s 50 States) elect their Attorneys General. And most municipalities in the country elect their Sheriffs. The country’s Attorney General, as noted earlier, is appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

One wonders why the U.S. Congress and all other legislative organs of democratic governments worldwide cannot consider the prospect of subjecting aspirants for the position of Attorney General to a popular vote by the electorate!

Bibliography
CBS News, “Transcript: Rep. Elijah Cummings on ‘Face the Nation’,”
https://www.cbsnews.com/ , April 21, 2019.
Democracy Now, “Mitch McConnell Urging Conservative Judges to Retire While GOP Still Holds Senate & Presidency,”
https://www.democracynow.org/ , March 17, 2020.
Farese, Lois S., Kimbrell, Grady and Woloszyk, Carl A., Marketing Essentials (Woodland Hills, CA: Glencoe / McGraw-Hill, 2009).
Gambino, Lauren, “William Barr: Is His Defense of Trump Paving the ‘Road to Tyranny’?” The Guardian:
https://www.theguardian.com/ , May 4, 2019.
Kyambalesa, Henry, The Size and Functions of Government (Lambert Academic Publishing, 2022), pp. 353–357.

Pelosi, Nancy and Schumer, Chuck, quoted in Hains, Tim, “Attorney General Bill Barr Press Conference on Final Mueller Report,” Real Clear Politics:https://www.realclearpolitics.com/ , April 18, 2019.

(The “Mueller Report” was the final report of a U.S. counterintelligence investigation of the alleged Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.)
Shortell, David and Herb, Jeremy, “Barr Clashes with Democrats over Policing and Roger Stone Sentencing at Fiery Hill Hearing,” CNN:https://www.cnn.com/ , July 28, 2020.
Stephanopoulos, George and O’Rourke, Beto, quoted by ABC News,
“‘This Week’ Transcript 6-9-19: Beto O’Rourke,”
https://abcnews.go.com/ ,

20 COMMENTS

  1. It’s not a myth but one branch makes it look so…. that’s the president… not only HH but the whole lot of them down the line since independence.

    • Firstly this Kyambalesa guy needs to do his research before he publishes his boring theses. Its not “Three Branches of Government” but three branches of governance. Government is part of the three branches of governance so it cant be split into three branches again. Its also referred to as The Executive as it manages the day-to-day operations of government,

    • Lumpenela … google “three branches of governance” and “three branches of government” and get the answer for yourself. You are the one who needed to do some research before making a comment.

    • What Lumpenela is suggesting doesn’t make sense. “Governance” refers to the act or process of governing or overseeing the control and direction of, say, a country or an organization. While one can say “three systems of governing / governance,” it is not proper English to say “three branches of governing / governance.”

    • One of the courses Prof. Kyambalesa taught at CBU in the late 1980s was Business Communication. I was one of his students in this class. I, therefore, do not question the appropriateness of the words or phrases he uses in his articles or books.

    • This is a much discussed issue in academics but neither Lumpenela nor the author is wrong. However, to avoid confusing homonyms, academics would prefer you clarify what you are referring to when Government is used as both the system of rule and as a function of one of the three branches. The Executive branch is often referred to as Government so this needs to be clarified. Governance “is the process of decision- making and the process by which decisions are implemented” That involves, the legislature, the Judiciary and the executive/government. What would be more appropriate a headline would be “The three branches of Governance”.

    • Unfortunately my full retort has been cut out of this post by LT I dont know why. Perhaps it would have clarified my response above. @Mwinilunga be careful what you swallow from Google. Its just information-not neccessarily the correct information

    • @Lumpenela: If google is not one of the major sources of information in our era, what are your sources of information — your head and/or my grandpa in Mwinilunga?

    • Lumpenela … If your “retort” has been cut out probably because it was out of context, write an article about your “Three ‘Branches’ of Governing / Governance” and I am sure LT will publish it. But I can assure you that it would be improper to refer to the process or system of governing / governance as a “branch” or an “organ” in the same manner as the so-called Political Science Student has suggested.

    • For Lumpenela: Never in my lifetime have I ever heard or read about “The Three Branches of Governance” or “The Three Organs of Governance.” I have, of course, heard or read about “The Systems of Governance,” “The Process of Governance” “The Facets of Governance,” and “The Areas of Governance.”

    • @Student, Really? You could be very young. Im in the early stages of my MA and I have come across it lots of times
      Here are a few references:
      Organs Of Government – [2001] KECKRC 18
      These are: the Executive; (b) the Legislature; and (c) the Judiciary. These organs correspond to the vital and most basic governance functions, namely…
      Indian Civics textbook: The Indian Constitution has enshrined the three organs of governance with different powers. Explain the powers vested in each organ.
      a) Executive, Legislative, Judicial
      b) Judicial, Executive, Legislative
      c) Legislative, Judicial, Executive
      d) Legislative, Executive, Judicial

    • The anonymous “Lumpenela” is probably borrowed from the term “lumpen” that was commonly used during the now-defunct Soviet Union / Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

    • Relative … the Zambian constitution is fraught with grammatical errors mainly because we use a borrowed language — English. The same can be said about the Indian Constitution. If your example was from the USA or the United Kingdom, it would make sense. Search for an English-speaking country like the USA and find any author who has used the term “Three Organs of Governance” or “Three Branches of Governance” and show us the example on this platform. By the way, there are even grammatical errors in a one-page Zambian National Anthem as one author of an article that appeared on this platform not too long ago!

  2. Excellent reflection and Zambia should emulate Kenya and place our Judiciary on the ballot to increase justice and fairness and eliminate the cancer of corruption that has destroyed many countries including Zambia

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    • @Malumo, why you people like comparing to other countries, you just looked a fuuul by picking a useless country Kenya because they like copying USA.
      Zambia is getting better, there is only shortage of natural thinkers, like me. Zambians thinks like Kyambalesa, THEORIES.

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    • Apparently Western copycatting is very much encouraged here if you read some of the posts they urge us to quote USA or UK. Now I know why our lawyers wear those wigs. The war against inferiority complexes has a long way to reach victory

    • @Makass Garvey: Africans particularly are polite when dealing with foreigners — muzungus and the like. There is really no need to be stubborn and arrogant for no apparent reason. And the “war against inferiority complexes” must be in your head. We are all generally trying hard to eke out a meagre living day in and day out rather than fight unnecessary “wars.”

  3. Zambia’s current 3 wings of government are HH, Mwiimbu and Siyandenge. So we’re a functioning democracy

  4. Makass Harvey … the USA has more libraries, more institutions of higher learning, more publishing houses, etc., than the rest of the world combined. It is not an inferiority complex to acknowledge this fact. And the country has more authors who write about the “Three Branches of Government.” And Lumpenela, your first comment leaves one to wonder whether you had any civics class in primary or secondary school. It is always wise not to comment on issues you do not understand.

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