Two weeks on the campaign trail

“Did you win?”

That was the question that greeted me on Wednesday as I arrived back in Harare after a gruelling two weeks on the campaign trail in the Zanu-PF primaries.

Given that I had announced my submission of curriculum vitae to be considered for the primaries on social media, as well as announcing that my name had been cleared to partake in the elections, the interest in what became of my participation was anticipated.

Even on the night that the country was on the edge, waiting for the outcome of the primary results, my phone was ringing no end: it is the bed I had made and lie in it I would.

From a figures point of view, my performance in the primaries was a big disappointment, even lower than my expectations.

But to concentrate on the figures alone, without looking at the bigger picture, would be to miss the point.

The experience and exposure that I gained in the time I spent with the electorate was invaluable, first for my aspirations for political office and second for my journalism.

I will start off with the journalism aspect.

The issues that we think tickle our readers are not exactly the same issue that excite the electorate.

Whilst my name was familiar to a fair number of voters, as the campaign warmed up I realised that the issues that were coming up for discussion and consideration were nowhere near what our coverage of what the electorate easily relates with.

The electorate is concerned with issues that have to do with their immediate life and welfare, their daily struggles.

Whilst we might spend a lot of space and time covering the commissioning of the Kariba South hydropower project, because it is a project of national importance, the person down in Guruve is worried that there are no functioning boreholes within 5km. That their roads are horrible. That they struggle to take their agricultural produce to markets.

My perception of “rural reporting” has been broadened.

On the political front, it also helped me to understand that being known in a particular profession does not necessarily translate into political popularity.

In short, what my understanding of being an MP is not necessarily how they define theirs.

To them, at least from the short engagement that I had with them, an MP is someone who has to be with them – most of the time – whether that person has good or bad news to tell them.

They need someone that shares their plight.

Over and above that, there is a general misconception within the rural electorate that an MP has to attend, and at times, help with funerals. That an MP should have the capacity to help them pay school fees.

To the youth, I realised there are things we consider minor but are of great importance to them: things like football kits and tournaments.

There is a serious lack of entertainment options in rural areas. So sport is a big deal.

Sport speaks to self-worth, it speaks to achievement, it speaks to “a way out” for many young people.

And this in itself speaks to the restricted development opportunities in our rural areas, something our politics must respond to.

The other notable gain from the exposure and experience of the two weeks is the essence of public speaking.

You cannot vie for public office without oratory skills.

Coming from a print media background, the first day confronting the electorate, in the joint rallies, was a day of butterflies in the stomach.

But the second day was much improved and the third day, when I was a bit in the groove and the rallies becoming enjoyable and exciting, the process came to an end.

So for one to gain the confidence of the electorate, it should be a general requirement to be able to articulate your views and vision, in the simplest of terms, to the common man.

Whilst there is a general tendency to dismiss complaints from losing candidates as sour grapes, I think given that there has been widespread concerns over the way the primaries were conducted.

The ruling party, for its own good, needs to look at some of these concerns with a view to holding better primary elections in future.

There are many aspects that the ruling party has to re-look, aspects which if addressed fully and collectively, might lead to the holding of primary elections that almost satisfy the expectations of the voting public as well as the candidates.

After 2018, the next general election is only five years away. A seed has been sown, and it will germinate and grow between now and then.

It is all about being with the people, through good and bad times.

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