We must face up to the reality that there is a chasm between our conceptualisation of where we are and where we really are politically, and it is widening. We need an urgent objective review of how we do politics or we will keep residing in a false comfort zone.
A Mthwakazi focused politics is stuttering because we are unable to function and to deliver; we do not possess a healthy ‘stock’ of political capital. The lack of that vital capital means we cannot take our political ideals to the next level – breaking them into their small, actionable constituents.
Now we will define the two components of socio-political significance – political and social capital – to help us better identify and understand the reasons for our current sluggish political growth.
Political capital refers to the goodwill, trust and influence that politicians earn or build up with the public through the pursuit of policies that people like or respect. This calls for our movements to be active on the ground – walk the talk. Instead of laughing at ZANU PF’s baking ovens, let us be practical in moving resources, we must be seen doing practical things in Mthwakazi.
Closely related to political capital is Reputational Capital which has more to do with how reliable and credible a politician is viewed in the eyes of members of the public and other politicians. This kind of political capital is earned by maintaining consistent positions on policy and ideological views.
Broadly speaking, political capital is the result of relationships between policy (legislative rewards/penalties), opinion (public impressions), and political judgment (prudent decision-making).
Social capital is defined by the OECD as “networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate co-operation within or among groups”.
Equally important for our political movements will be the understanding of how social capital can be effectively translated into political capital. When we begin to appreciate the importance of building working relationships with local heads men and chiefs, and bring on-board the powerful local women, we will see real growth in our politics.
When paying close attention on the public engagement in local politics (both on the ground and online), we note not only a disconnection between what Mthwakazi politicians think the region needs and what ordinary citizens believe they need, but gendered perceptual differences too. That disconnect is reflected in debates and in the numbers of people in political ‘books’ and participating in political activities either online or on the ground; many of the groups do not even top 2,000 members, and in elections no organisation has achieved 100 votes to date in local elections in the last two years.
More males claim membership of political groups but fewer are active. On the other hand, women make greater numbers on socially focused groups and tend to be actively involved.
Another notable phenomenon is that of local associations being more effective in turning dreams into practicable goals that they have effectively carried out.
Now the question is: Where is politics missing it? Clearly, there is social capital that political organisations and leaders are failing to harness into political capital. Political organisations need to look themselves in the eye and take full responsibility for this glaring failure.
How do we explain the better engagement in social against the back drop of poor to non-engagement in pro-Mthwakazi politics by Mthwakazi citizens?
There are many reasons that account for the disparity but our working assumption would be that politicians and political organisation have routinely bypassed society as they drew up their policies. Thus, the organisations and their long-term goals are not compatible with long-term needs of the people.
Whereas evidence sufficiently indicates Mthwakazi works best within a setup of direct democracy and related systems, political movements have sort to create replicas of the MDC and ZANU PF and adopted centralised governance.
There is little evidence politicians are prepared to rectify the abnormal setup. In order to obviate accountability for their politically ineffective approach, it would appear our political parties have sort to do everything to shift blame to the Mthwakazi public. In so doing, the political organisations effectively attack the credibility of the electorate.
It is easier for politicians to blame the electorate for perceived ignorance and all sorts for not buying their product, but one cannot blame the market for not purchasing their product. The seller needs to do more to market the product, make it attractive to the target market.
Perhaps our organisations need to invest more in presenting believable projects. Marketing the product and attracting customers is one thing, ensuring one retains the patronage of the customer is a matter of the quality of the product not how well it is advertised.
We posit the argument here that blaming the public does not fix political organisations’ ineptitude. Political organisations are the only institutions who are going to sort themselves out. They have put the cart before the horses, social capital has to precede political capital.
Having political capital allows one to get things done, and it is only possible to achieve political capital if you have first invested in building a solid foundation of social capital. We need to accept that Mthwakazi works best in direct democracy and related systems; social and political relationships must be built from local structures and not imposed on local structures.