Defend Truth


Forget photos with babies, here’s what parties can do to win over South African voters


Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a Brown Woman in a White South Africa. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @sage_of_absurd

Municipal elections roll around on 1 November and, as we edge closer to that date, I have no idea who to vote for – and I am not the only one. Several friends, colleagues and all those random strangers on Twitter that we so often take seriously have no idea who to vote for either.

There used to be a time – in fact, it may still be the case – when political parties used to campaign by finally making their way to poverty-stricken areas to make empty promises, take photos with babies and hand out obligatory T-shirts. I haven’t seen any of that. It seems as though even they have given up.

Even the placards posted around several towns are as lazy and tired as your average parliamentarian falling asleep during the State of the Nation Address.

It’s a cheap shot, but not everyone sees it that way. And there are many who fall for the free T-shirt-and-cap marketing tactic. I think they think that the giving hands of those political parties reflect their ability to follow through should they be elected and continue in that charitable vein. Or at least provide the bare minimum like clean water and sanitation. Alas, it is not so.

As for the photos with babies – look, I have no idea what that’s about, but it clearly has stood the test of time in terms of garnering votes, and maybe that’s why parties continue to do it. But, to be fair, I have yet to see one of these pictures. Perhaps they’re keeping this tactic in the back pocket for the national election.

Political PR has teetered off, and South Africans are confused, jaded and unconvinced. I firmly believe that to vote is a civic duty, and every South African who has the means to get their big mouths to a voting station should do so. But, honestly, it’s tough to convince people when it’s really hard to validate the vote. “What for? Who cares? Why would I? And who do I vote for?” Right? Right!

So after some thought, I decided to put the ball back into the politicians’ court and serve them with a couple of ideas on how to win over the hearts and minds of voters because they have clearly run out of ideas:

You’ve tried the T-shirt, you’ve tried the cap, but let me introduce you to the ever-popular tote bag. I can guarantee you that no one cares what it says. Perhaps the colourway would make a difference. I can see myself carrying a red EFF one instead of a gold, black and green ANC tote – it seems a bit much, but you can maybe win the vote with the tote.

As someone who has worked for a top advertising agency, I have won over many hearts and minds of supporters for a brand with a good, old fashioned desk drop. And I can testify to the success of desk-dropping the branded mug. Mugs are the living, breathing memes of the 21st century. Everyone will see them! They live in people’s houses, in their offices, in conference rooms on Zoom calls. Nothing screams free marketing like a mug.

Now, we know you can’t let data fall or decrease prices or give the nation free internet access. The rest of Africa can provide all these at a fraction of the price, so who can say why we can’t get it right? But there is a way to tap into this market, especially for the elderly, and it’s very, very easy. Just take some time out of your day and help them set up their Facebook pages. No one loves a Facebook page more than an elderly citizen. And if you set it up by hot-spotting your phone, well, that’s a vote in your pocket – free. You’ve saved them money and given them access to family, friends and your party’s page, where you can bullshit them till the cows come home. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.


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  • Rory Macnamara says:

    Mugs, now there is a good one. problem is, would one accept a mug from a bunch of political mugs – or a mug hoping to be a mug?
    this really indicates how tired our politics has become and will continue as more and more corruption is found out, now in our smaller towns i.e Knysna

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