KENNETH MOKGATHLE | Strategic communication essential to winning votes

.File photo.
.File photo.
Image: Kevin Sutherland

A well-crafted communication strategy can win one an election; however, SA political formations have yet to realise this.  Getting airtime or space in the mainstream media is good, however, what is better is to deliver an effective message to  potential voters.

About 53 political parties contesting  in this year’s elections have not been able to distinguish themselves from the rest.

The ANC’s "Better Life for All" slogan was a simple message translated into African languages and spoke directly to the electorate in the past. It was a clear message which appealed to people who thought  their lives needed to be improved.

It is difficult to say what the party's central message is today because its organisational head, Fikile Mbalula, spent the rest of the day selling Jacob Zuma to voters. The party talks about the renewal of what? What is the message of the party to the country?

We have seen  ANC veteran Thabo Mbeki  rechannelling the party messaging. He admitted  the party has not done well due to internal system weaknesses which attract corrupt people to join and lead the ANC.

The DA in 1999 under the leadership of Tony Leon adopted a simple but effective slogan, “Fight Back”, which gave those who were powerless a sense of platform to fight back against those threatening their liberties. That slogan was reused by the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) in the 2019 elections.

The DA has developed a sophisticated communication infrastructure with competent individuals such as Solly Malatsi. It has been able to negate accusations  the DA was for white people and talk about ethical, good governance.

The EFF’s self-styled commander-in-chief, Julius Malema, is the main carrier  of the central party message. He has instructed his followers to tell the electorate  his party will do three things: end load shedding, create jobs and bring back the land. It is a simple message that appeals to all South Africans going through power cuts, unemployment or landlessness. 

FF+,  that recently witnessed marginal electoral growth, has also kept it simple, “Let’s Rebuild SA”. Its message is clear  to the electorate.  The message  has a target, it aims to galvanise SA patriots who would like to restore ethics, patriotism and good governance into state institutions such as decaying municipalities, governmental departments and state-owned entities.

The IFP is using the slogans it has used in the past, "Sithembe/Trust Us", which is still relevant when we look at the growing trust deficit between the electorate and government. We hear about corrupt politicians who are never punished for stealing public resources. The IFP says to  potential voters it would change the relationship between the people and the government.

It is not yet clear what Jacob Zuma’s new party, uMkhonto weSizwe Party, is standing for. What is clear is that they want to give the “ANC of Ramaphosa” a good run for its money.  Zuma seems like a person who just wants to prove to the ANC that he can oust  it from power as it did to him a few years back. There is no clear message from the party to potential voters. It has not displayed its message  so that we all know how different it is from the more than 50 parties.

It is really difficult to distinguish many of these parties from each other, hence it becomes a difficult exercise for people. The majority of them are talking about the creation of jobs, ending load shedding, fighting crime and other social ills  people face daily; however, their manifestos say very little about how those desires could be achieved when they obtain state power. 

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