Pro-Mthwakazi politics won’t fly on the back of ineffective communication

Now that we have arrived at our belief of a successful pro-Mthwakazi movement not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what we find attractive, it is time to face up to the uncomfortable objective conclusion that there is some movement, but not enough to qualify for progress.

While courageous decisions have been made and courageous acts conducted against injustice, they have been sparse and their effectiveness questionable at best. The uncomfortable truth – albeit with its own portion of subjectivity – is that we have yet to entice our people, we made no impact in the 31 July 2018 general elections on the back of another reality that the MDC Alliance and ZANU PF still entice our people and remain popular in Mthwakazi.

The core of our argument resonates with our people: most would agree that Mthwakazi is marginalised by systems and institutions steeped in Mashonaland’s favour; most would agree that Zimbabwean systems have never been biased in favour of Matabeleland and most would agree that the MDC Alliance and ZANU PF anchor the system and institutions disadvantaging us, yet many will find reason to falsify the pro-Mthwakazi political movement and find reason to justify their support for either the MDC Alliance or ZANU PF.

We are clearly failing to breakdown our big ideas into manageable smaller attractive bits that capture the imagination of our people. Ever noticed that ZANU PF and the MDC Alliance slogans not pro-Mthwakazi ones are the ones dominating our political space? In a sense, the problem is not the ideas we hold but their packaging and delivery. Debunk the communication problem, we have progress awaiting.

Effective communication, and not coincidence, is everything if we are to penetrate the Mthwakazi political space. The art of communication is the chocolate that entices the public to the politician; it is the language of leadership.

The French yellow vests protests, the Trump presidential campaign and the Obama presidential campaign are some of the examples of communication impacting public opinion and action. How ideas are transmitted is just as important (or even more important for that matter) as the ideas themselves.

We understand political communication as the role of communication in the political process. In our political life we will produce and transmit information in a variety of forms, in a variety of venues and through a variety of medium.

Equally important in the communication process is the recognition that we do not only give out political messages, we receive them too. We want to be active listeners, understand what is being said before giving appropriate responses.

Let it be our aim that every political message we produce is geared toward citizens, to inform and to influence them. It is the interaction between these three attributes that matter in political communication.

Cutting corners will compromise our approach to the communication process. The diction and pitch of our communication will be determined by the platform, audience and purpose. For instance, writing a speech is not the same as writing a press release, a pamphlet or even a blog. Each requires a different approach and set of skills.

Given we are dealing with a traditional media not known for its impartiality, let us increase our presence in non-traditional forms of political message delivery – blogs, Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube videos; these are accessible to many and are perfectly suited to direct, personal communication. People following blogs and Facebook pages are looking for spontaneity and personability, not finely tuned, politically-correct masterpieces.

Being clear about whom we are addressing would be key to successful communication. The rapid growth of social media has revolutionised political communication. Politicians can now access their voters directly, bypassing journalists and editors.

Greater care in the use of language is therefore essential if the communication is not to be wasted. The general public is usually less informed on the details and so the language of communication must be adapted accordingly.

We are a diverse society; our communication needs to reflect that fact. Use of local languages or at least competent interpreters must be the norm. Keep messages simple, addressing the public should not be an occasion to show off one’s rhetorical skills but rather the reverse – a moment to express a message in clear and simple language that cannot be misunderstood, misinterpreted or misrepresented.

Although many of our people exhibit greater fluency in the English language, it is safer to assume that some messages may not be picked up or properly reported if the speaker opts for complex language. It is important that we never use language too big for the subject.

Ambiguity is an important communication tool in the political process. We will have to be astute enough to know when to effectively deploy language that avoids potential conflict as well as incite it. Constructive ambiguity calls for mastering the art of generalisation. The premise is: the scarcer the details of our policy, the harder it would be for political opponents to attack.

Planning and timing is of essence in political speeches. We need to know when to capture the moment and utilise short, sharp and simple statements to arouse public interest.

The Mthwakazi agenda must be filled with positive political message. We need to offer hope and prospects of a brighter future, so persistent messages of doom and gloom are unlikely to attract a mass following.

We may be down, but we are not out and quitting is not an option. Our opinions will have to be heard, keeping quiet in politics is as useful as a librarian who has forgotten the access code to the building. The way we express ourselves will determine who we are and whether or not we connect with the public.

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