Quasi-despotism and openly arrogant behaviours displayed by some Matabeleland focused political parties or their members raise concern for the political future of the region. We argue that amateurish approach to communication poses major political concern in the region. Political parties need to understand their remit, be clear about goals, and maintain clear boundaries to avoid undue political interference; their operations must be calibrated and proportionate to the needs of our region not just the political party interests. Irresponsible messaging can be a turn off for potential followers.
Uncoordinated messaging can be seen in the form of rumblings often mistaken for communication by those making them. We recently had one such misplaced public communication by a political party member demanding that a local up and coming business enterprise presents its new product to the party offices for ‘testing’. As the audience we wondered “What are they ‘testing’ and who are they to conduct the tests?”
Adopting a principled stand is necessary if we are to address political disarray in the region; the Matabeleland agenda is being run on claims of morality: the argument being that parties are protecting the region from the immorality of ZANU PF and the barbaric politics it represents, but if organisations want to use ZANU PF tools in their fight, the first casualty would be their moral claims.
Clearly, the approach to communication is problematic especially the tone and content of the message; we see a penchant for bullying, condescending attitude, and a grossly patronising communication style founded on a delusional view of self-importance.
It is imperative for parties to understand that the public does not owe them unquestionable allegiance and they must not believe it is their exclusive property to free us, and our role is to listen, take note, and act as instructed. We are not going to repeat the errors of Zimbabwe’s independence; we are not going to give politicians a blank sheet to draw our world; people want to co-create the future. And we do not want to create a new world to give it all the same limits of the old one.
The public acknowledges the role for organised political parties and is willing to transfer its power to good leaders; but it has expectations of those who would like to take the honour of taking the leading role in serving the nation: high moral standards, character and a sense of responsibility come to mind. Leaders must recognise they do not serve party ideology but use ideology as a guide to draw policy to serve people; we expect parties to sort out, weigh, and as much as possible, reconcile the myriad of conflicting demands of individuals, interest groups, communities, and regions; significantly, we want them to serve as a link between the constituencies and the people chosen to govern.
It is fundamental that party policy is an aggregation of our needs and for solutions to be reflective of society. It is also a public expectation in a democracy for political organisations to be receptive to public scrutiny, uncomfortable as it may feel at times; parties must be as transparent as possible, inclusive, and increase accountability levels across all their structures.
Parties must communicate to the public their policies and procedures with honesty and accept criticism. Party accessibility is essential for public connectivity. We want to engage with party leaders, but the current environment is awash with kingly characters too important to field public questions.
What is increasingly noticeable and equally worrying in the Matabeleland leaning political space is that political parties lack staff and skills to run effective communications departments; we are referring to the quality and speed with which information is shared. The bellicose rhetoric from members of some organisations is emblematic of the problem of inefficient communications departments; individuals shout out loud without communicating; their approach to communication violates fundamental principles of democracy, such as transparency, accountability, freedom, and respect of individuality.
Rather than invest in the quality of information, the parties turn to quantity; what you get is disjointed hearsay packed as fact. The communication is often dangerously ill-informed and misleading; this is damaging not only to the credibility of the party but also in that it increases political polarisation and sends incorrect or conflicting information about fundamental political and socioeconomic-related policies in the region.
Urgent corrective measures are required to reverse the dangerous path that the nation is on; there needs to be an internal organisational review of communication and adoption of a more expert-centred approach. Instead of having the first to the keyboard type or first to the microphone speak, let experts run communications departments and experts on various policy initiatives communicate policy.
Developing and maintaining effective communication departments is as expensive as it is invaluable. Good communication in politics is just as important as the policies being communicated, if not more; how one communicates transcends their emotions and in turn shapes the public thought and views. To change the character of politics playing in Matabeleland, a true departure from the gaff-filled communication disarray is important; communication and language must be set at the right tone. We are not satisfied with being allowed once every few years to decide which representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress us, we are saying, ‘let’s co-create and protect Matabeleland future’; the public demands direct participation at all levels of governance and mutually inclusive communication would be integral to that process.