To win an election in South Africa in the post-apartheid era seems a task that not many are up to if they don't find themselves in the current leading party, the ANC. The problem being that since 1994 the ANC has gathered more than 60% of the votes each election('94, '99, '04, '09) without really ever suffering huge loses despite its governance, or lack thereof, the ANC keeps power in a country whose people are politically aware in terms of who rules, but not so much when it comes to accountability and what really happens in politics in the country.
The Democratic Alliance has in recent years tried to be a strong opposition party, which to their credit they have done really well. They won the province of the Western Cape and in Midvaal, Gauteng. They are showing that they can win elections against the ANC. The problem with the DA is that it has the mentality of an opposition party. Like their Parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko saying that President Zuma staying at the helm of the ANC for the next election won’t be in the country's best interest. This on its own is fine, as she may be right regarding the president, but this clearly shows the mentality of the DA. Not the mettle of a party that believes they will win. A party who is trying to position itself as an alternative to govern can't go out and say, without any confidence that they won't win the next election. Rather stand saying that you are ready to govern, because at the moment the DA is only ready to try and win elections.
This would however upset many middle class South Africans who support the DA, because the cliche line of the past 10 years has become "We have to vote for the biggest opposition".
To win an election in South Africa as a current opposition party there are a few key steps to be taken :
- Fund raising in South Africa isn't done properly. By securing more funds from the middle and upper class and private businesses you get their support, and by using the donated money from them, you get to your masses to win their votes. It isn’t the most fun part of politics, but it is essential.
- Winning a vote is gaining trust. The reality is a party has to gain the trust of a person who was liberated by the ANC a mere 18 years ago. This will by no small feat to accomplish, but by micro campaigning, in each and every ward you will start turning over votes.
- Change your party from an opposition party to a competitive party who wants to govern, and send that message loud and clear.
- Start a culture of debating, even if it only starts in the party itself. Talk about the issues and why the oppositon won’t be as good as you. Weigh positives against negatives. Make the political landscape in South Africa one of facts and intelligent reasoning. Challenge the ruling party on issues, and show when they don’t want to answer.This is where real politics start.
- Place more emphasis on your campaign team. Once again we need to get the best minds into politics. By having the best on your team, you get more influential people involved.
- Study the mainstream issues, know it inside and out, and be ready to ask or answer any question about it.
- Clear your schedule as much as possible and get to know the media. Get speaking engagements at civic clubs and do media and blogger interviews. Go out into the community. Attend town hall meetings and go door to door. Get online. Build a campaign website and a presence on social network sites. Encourage commentary and discussion of issues. Weigh in on citizens' comments so they feel they are getting personal attention from you.
- Elections are all about charisma and finding views that all people agree with. If you have a likable personality, ideas that most people agree with and with good promotion, you stand a good chance to win, anywhere in the world