Building political capital is central to framing the Mthwakazi/ Matabeleland movement influencing and shaping the local political landscape. Great movements do not only exude talent but have exceptional ability to attract followers; they do not only convince, they motivate the public to act in ways they would otherwise not act. The movement needs to take us not where we want to go but where we need to be.
A wrong diagnosis leads to wrong interventions being applied. Our political problems are multi-layered: control and co-optation by biased unitary Zimbabwe organisations, systems and institutions is one major problem, but our biggest problem is the lack of political capital.
The current movement has struggled to attract significant followers. Where are the Joshua Nkomos, Sydney Malungas, Thenjiwe Lesabes, Welshman Mabhenas, etc. of today? In these were men and women who when they spoke the public paid attention. They understood their constituency like the back of their hand. Leaders with skills and attributes can use political capital to shape the context in which they operate, creating a ‘positive multiplier’ as the personal and political reinforce each other.
One thing for sure, influential leaders show up every day. They ooze integrity. They walk the walk and talk the talk. They are clear about their aims and objectives. They are inspirational, aspirational, authentic, and vulnerable all at the same time.
We shall not dwell in the past but live in the present stepping into the future. For leaders to lead, it is not only about exceptional personal attributes but also the ability to attract followers. To influence people organisations must first understand what already influences them.
Our focus now needs to be on building political capital, reframe the political space to redirect people away from the unitary Zimbabwe shambles to the Mthwakazi agenda and maintain their presence.
Political capital is the ‘… accumulation of resources and power built through relationships, trust, goodwill, and influence between politicians or parties and other stakeholders, such as constituents.’ It is the leverage for influencing policy reform and the electorate, and accomplish other political goals. As a resource, political capital is not infinite, it depreciates with time but can be renewed provided it is used wisely.
Six essential factors in building political capital:
1. Understanding followers
Organisations must understand that followers have their independent expectations and motivations that influence them to follow an organisation. Those expectations and motivations must be captured to a very high degree; a very good understanding of those you wish to lead is fundamental to your self-awareness and that helps improve one’s ability to manage their image.
Followers’ motivations fall into two categories — rational and irrational. Rational motivations are conscious and therefore well-known; in our case these will have to do with people’s hopes of Matabeleland gaining adequate autonomy to frame its socioeconomic and political space, achieving a federal system of government, economic growth, gaining real power, safety and security by following a pro-Mthwakazi organisation —and their fears that they will miss out if they do not.
Irrational motivations on the other hand lie outside the realm of individuals’ awareness and, therefore, beyond their ability to control them yet they are the most influential in people’s behaviours towards an organisation or leadership. Often these motivations arise from the powerful images and emotions in the unconscious that people project onto their relationships with organisations and leaders.
It is important that the movement is aware of the irrational motivations and resist falling prey to followers’ idealised images of them so as to allow objectivity to dominate decision-making processes. In short, our leaders should not buy into perceptions of them as gods and saviours.
2. Clarity and Consistency in communication
The importance of consistency and clarity in communication cannot be over-emphasised; followers need to know when they will hear from their leadership. Investment in followers is everything; an organisation is nothing without its followers and followers want to hear from leaders. Transparency creates trust and loyalty, organisations need to maintain daily or weekly contact with their followers whether it is via emails or texts or social media platforms, etc. to give updates on priorities for that week, and why it is important; inform followers of progress or lack thereof.
Deception is the quickest way of losing credibility and with it political capital. Your words carry weight, do not tell people you will take a ‘left’ turn only to turn ‘right’. Organisations must set themselves high standards of conduct and make keeping promises second nature.
4. Share the vision, aims and objectives to followers
Organisations need to share their vision regularly. But what would be more effective is breaking the long-term vision into its small constituents and clearly explain it so it is understood by the rest of the members and followers. The big vision inspires but the weekly and monthly vision is what inspires action.
5. Build relationships
Your followers make your organisation, investing into them and cultivating relationships beyond political leaders and followers is critical; local leadership has to relate with people and stakeholders at a personal level – attend local community or family social functions, big and small.
6. Protect organisation’s culture
Organisation culture is what attracts and keeps talented members and grows its political capital. Robust policies are required to protect the integrity of the organisation. Disciplinary measures must be transparent and effective. In this world of social media, information, misinformation and disinformation are a great challenge. A dedicated platform needs to be set up to maintain direct communication with followers on various matters – good or bad – so you are in control of the narrative as best as possible to protect the culture of the organisation.
Political capital is the movement’s capacity to attract followers; it the currency through which the movement can frame and shape the local political dialogue and space. To be attractive to followers, the movement must understand the people; there is need to appreciate that contemporary political values demand more sensitivity towards local social and cultural values; individuals and communities have their own characteristics which are valuable to how our politics should be framed.