….. _and_ _should_ _be_ _addressed_ _by_ _party_ _Presidents_
By Tinashe Gumbo
“Thank you” can be an incredibly powerful pair of words, especially if the person you are thanking really needs to hear them, or is not expecting them (Dr. Laura Trice, 2014). They may appear to be ordinary words that are casually pronounced in our daily life.
Socially, to be thanked is to be appreciated, motivated to do more and to be connected to the originator of the words. Yet, in politics, these two words, come with the power to change the entire outlook of a particular politician and his or her party.
In this short piece, one discusses the significance of appreciating the voter after an election whether one has lost or won. The views expressed here are not politically or ideologically driven but are meant to steer critical thinking on the subject matter from purely academic viewpoint.
The central argument in the article is that a particular election may be over, but certainly, the campaign never is, as warned by the Green European Foundation(2014). Political party leaders (Presidents) should concentrate their “Thank You Rallies or Meetings” in those constituencies not won in a particular election to motivate the resilient local cadres. The article is directly informed by the recently (26 March and 7 May 2022) held by-elections in Zimbabwe.
_Understanding_ _the_ _phrase_ “ _Thank_ _You_ ”
In general terms, a thank you is an act or expression of gratitude. Yet, the phrase “Thank You” means more than just an appreciation of people’s kindness (franciaonline). As young kids learning how to talk, we were taught to say “Thank You” as a way of appreciating the good thing done towards us. We were further told that if one is grateful, more good things will come to him or her. The Malaysian meaning of “Thank You”, Teremakaseh means “Received with Love” (franciaonline). Certainly, receiving something good with love is the greatest act one will ever aim at because, “love is not love until it is given away; until it flows over to others”-like giving thanks.
“Thank You” is not a static phrase like all other phrases about receiving love. It is not just a word. It is a responsibility to pass on the love received. Therefore, politicians should learn to give away their love to those who would have voted for them-through a “Thank You”.
_Political_ _campaigns_ _breed_ _relationships_ _that_ _need_ _to_ _be_ _nurtured_
The Mberengwa West experiment of 2013 taught me a lot. I learnt that political campaigns attract new supporters, friends; sympathizers; sponsors; fence sitters; third party potential voters and others. One further learnt that these relationships need to be kept and jealously guarded, for future political endeavors. During the campaign, the base is enlarged with new volunteers and new members flocking to one’s banner to fight for one’s cause. Therefore, the challenge to all politicians is “remain connected with this base, stay in touch or you will lose them quickly”.
The base needs to be kept informed of the next steps after every election. If there is need to reorganize the party after a defeat or loss, there is need to explain to the supporters what will be going on and why, even when it may be painful. Remember, your supporters share your loss as they share your victory. Thus, they need to be kept close and very busy in between elections.
_The_ _Next_ _Election_ _is_ _always_ _just_ _by_ _the_ _corner_
A politician should not rest and the first step in preparing for new campaign is to thank the supporters and start to reorganize for the next adventure. Of course, in doing so, one has to make an honest and thorough evaluation of the election that just ended. A thorough evaluation can only be made by the people who were on the ground and these are your supporters. They saw it all. They saw the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and those of the entire party. Without officially thanking them, this process cannot be successful. Another key player who is often forgotten is the hard-working party staff who made one’s campaign possible.
The problem is that once the election is over, whether one has won or lost, supporters are easily forgotten. You just need to thank them. The same campaign machine used, should be utilized for thanking the supporters. Rallies, meetings and social media messages can do the deal to thank supporters after an election.
_Political_ _Parties_ _already_ _doing_ _it_ _?_
I have noted that following the 26 March and 7 May 2022 by-elections, some political parties have already started to thank their supporters. This is commendable. However, it looks like only one main political party is taking this process seriously. The Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) has held a number of constituencies’ “thank you rallies” in Matabeleland, Masvingo, Gweru, Harare and elsewhere. I was particularly impressed by the level of gratitude shown towards the CCC in Diaspora. The supporters in the Diaspora have remained a critical player in Zimbabwean politics for both ruling and opposition political parties. Indeed, the Diaspora played a major role in the just ended 26 March and 7 May 2022 elections. Moral and material support are key in an election-and the Diaspora chipped in. During the liberation struggle in the 1970s, the liberation movements benefited a great deal from this group of people.
The other parties which contested in the by-elections including the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Senator Douglas Mwonzora, the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) and others are yet to openly thank their supporters. The ZANU PF normally does it in a targeted and strategic manner. When it starts, members of its Politburo and Central Committee will be deployed with some standardized message for the supporters. I remember, ZANU PF’s first “Thank You” rally after the 2018 elections was held at Mt Darwin High School-and I am sure you now know how that area performed in the just ended by-elections. The ZANU PF has the capacity to use(or misuse) state resources for this purpose.
The MDC is not yet clear about its plans for thanking its supporters who stood with it during the highly contested elections. Maybe the party will pull out a jocker card towards this process.
_But_ “ _Victory_ _Rallies_ ” _are_ _not_ “ _Thank_ _You_ _Rallies_ ”
I want to discount the notion that “Thank You Rallies” are similar to “Victory Rallies”. These are two different things. I have often heard these two phrases being used interchangeably. “Victory rallies” are held in ward or constituency or nationally, where the party won. These are “show off” events. Supporters will be celebrating their triumph over their competitors. Yet “Thank You” rallies should be meant to appreciate the supporters-whether there was a loss or a win. That is when political leadership of the party should show love to their supporters. Love for the supporters should not only be shown during campaign period, that love should not be withheld because one has lost an election. Remember the saying above, “love is not love until it is given away; until it flows over to others”. Let it flow to those party cadres who showed you love by voting for you even when they knew that their vote was to be neutralized by that of the most popular party in the area. For me, this is the most important vote for the President of the losing party-a vote received from a loving “small” number of cadres. The supporters of the losing party deserve a bigger “Thank You” than that given to the winning constituencies. They have real love for the party and its leadership.
_Presidents_ _should_ _grow_ _their_ _votes_ _where_ _the_ _parties_ _lost_
By the way, for me, constituency and wards “Thank You” rallies should be graced by the local candidates and leadership and not by party Presidents. The Presidents have a bigger role to play where their vote lies. The Presidential vote is “scattered” in those so called “unwinnable constituencies”. That is where concentration by Presidential candidates should be. The few supporters who would have voted for them against all odds, are their true cadres who need to be thanked and protected. A Presidential vote is built cumulatively from the small numbers scored in various constituencies including those where National House of Assembly and Councilors would have lost. Presidential candidates should follow up on those small pieces and bagging them for the next elections. The Presidential candidate should go to those lost constituencies, grow the vote, glow and give light to those who would not have voted for his or her party. The supporters would have exposed themselves by voting for that party hence they need protection from their President.
After the 26 March and 7 May by-elections, I would have expected to see the MDC President, Senator Mwonzora holding “Thank You” rallies in all the wards and constituencies, because his party did not do well. However, those few supporters who voted for his party need to be appreciated. It is not about that “zero” ward or constituency that his party won, but it is hugely about those supporters who stood with his party. Remember those few supporters were exposed to all forms of insults from their opponent but they still voted for the MDC. Senator, just go and thank them.
The ZANU PF should be seen holding such rallies in all the constituencies it lost, to thank the supporters for their resilience. President Emmerson Mnangagwa should visit all the constituencies his party lost. It was clear that ZANU PF was not going to win some seats-it was clear even to the party itself that it was not going to perform better than the CCC. However, there are some cadres who still voted for ZANU PF and this guaranteed the visibility of their party beyond the by-elections. While the National House of Assembly Members and Councillors did not win in those constituencies and wards, still, if motivated the few supporters who stood with the party will vote for their Presidential candidate in the upcoming elections. Without nurturing the urban vote, the ZANU PF will always struggle in those areas.
Equally, the CCC Champion, Advocate Nelson Chamisa should be seen more in Mberengwa South, Mwenezi, Gokwe and Pfura, thanking those supporters who made his party known in those areas. Those 77 strong CCC cadres in Pfura, need to be thanked for the job well done. The Gokwe,Mwenezi, Chivi, Mutasa and Mberengwa South supporters fought a good fight. They worked to reorganize the CCC structures which had been dismantled because of internal challenges in the party (MDC). It is because of such supporters that the CCC is now known in those remote areas. These votes need to be nurtured by the owner himself (Presidential candidate), otherwise the CCC will continue to trail ZANU PF in rural areas.
It can be said that “Thank You” rallies should be targeted in lost constituencies and wards and should be addressed by party Presidents who directly benefit from the “scattered” votes across the country in a general election. The good thing is that “Thank You” rallies are a form of campaign in itself. As one appreciates the supporters, one is already campaigning for the next election. Therefore, these rallies should not be viewed as an extra task for the President. They keep the fire burning and help to protect the few votes received so that they will multiply in the next elections.
The opposition should not aim to match ZANU PF which can afford not to send its President but can still thank supporters materially. The ruling party has the capacity to dispatch its top leadership with some goodies taken from the national basket. The opposition should use the capital that it naturally possesses- the President’s mouth and hands can do the deal by just saying “Thank You” to the supporters in hard to win constituencies and wards.
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