Avishkar Govender
Avishkar Govender

From supporter-voters to member-activists

It has always been the objective of the political class to seek the support of persons other than themselves and their employees in order to reinforce legitimacy and public acceptance which should, ideally, subsist to enable the political class to exercise the privilege of representing the people and citizenry of the state as governed.

The liberty of man in society is to be under no other legislative power but to have only the law of nature for his rule. The liberty of man in society is to be under no legislative power but that established by consent in the commonwealth; nor under the dominion of any will or restraint of any law, but what that legislative shall enact according to the trust put it in. John Locke

It is this “trust” which is placed in the legislative, a term which should be seen to denote the bodies of public representation both in the statutory and civil senses, that raises the issue of legitimacy and public acceptance of the right of the representative to wield the very trust which has been placed in that office of representation by the citizens themselves. Insofar as it does this it must be clear that we mean legitimacy in the sense of something which has undisputed credibility in the mind of the public at large.

It is clear that being respected and supported as a credible leader is far better than being feared and obeyed as a tyrant as has been the experience of tyrants across the developing world over the last 200 or so years.

The problem with this search for support is that the decision to cede the power to make decisions on behalf of the individual and their dependants is a difficult and indeed involved decision that requires constant revalidation in order to reassure the decision maker that the decision was correct because there is little that the represented persons can do directly to improve the quality of representation he or she receives, unless that represented person enters into the service of the representative.

However most people who vote for political parties have little or no involvement with mainstream politics and indeed have even less to do with the parties they have supported. People have other things to devote their time to and political party branches don’t have ongoing programmes of activities in every ward, every day, and as such people in general devote more time to politics during elections and in discussions on national issues as opposed to on a perennial basis.

Those that make the effort to contribute their vote, but not their time or other resources, generally do not ring up their MP or councillor every other day to assess their political performance for that day. Those who contribute their vote as well as their time and other resources generally are more concerned to ensure that the campaign to which they themselves lent credibility, actually translates into effective representation and service delivery for the people.

By contrast those who do not, or cannot, contribute their vote and those who contribute neither their time nor other resources save money, are more inclined to feel that they have the right to demand that the level of political performance makes their investment look productive and well chosen. Whatever the state of your supporter-voter, each and every single one can be recruited into becoming a member-activist of your party and thus recruited into becoming someone who is more likely to repeat their support for the party in future years.

The tyrants among you will say that it is not necessary to invite voters to become members and naturally it will be because you are terrified of the added competition and the prospect of less room for complacency on your part. The democrats among you will intuitively see that the greater the number of members, the greater the prospect of stable, productive and actively functioning branches and party structures even at the most local level of civic participation.

Assessing the actual structural footprint of a party is an important task. It reveals the extent of functioning and flourishing activists and branches. It is necessary to look at the votes cast for ward candidates in local elections to see this because the PR and district votes as well as the national and provincial ballots will always be disproportionately greater than the ward ballot in local elections as a result of the mass media and brand goodwill elements of third-person political communication.

Therefore in order to recruit all of your supporter-voters into becoming member-activists you should do the following five things:

  1. Invite all of your supporter-voters to go out and convince just one other person each to vote for your party in 2011. This will allow your supporters to have the power to double your support at no cost to your party or your activists. This will make the supporter-voters more likely to want to become member-activists.
  2. Invite all your supporter-voters who contributed their time and other resources to become member-activists. This means that you will have to assist every single such person to be trained in the methodology of political activism and the responsibilities of membership. This will give the people who actually brought in your votes to have a more direct interest in the party’s future. This training can be conducted via the internet, again at no cost to your party or your activists.
  3. Invite all your supporter-donors to become member-activists and then ask them to contribute their time, skills and expertise in assisting to recruit other member-activists and develop their capacity. This will give the donors more political influence than they currently have under the lip-service dispensation.
  4. Insist that every one of your branches implement a daily programme of activities in every voting district, and given the high level of unemployment in the country, there’s no reason not to be able to do this. This will reinforce the individual’s choice of becoming a member-activist.
  5. Insist that every one of your public representatives holds a public meeting in their political constituency at least once a week. Ensure that they include items of educational and discussion value and invite community leaders, prominent residents and guest speakers to address these meetings on a regular basis.

These simple things will encourage people to join your party and encourage people to build the life and capacity of your party rather than simply being rented crowds for media events and election campaigns. The choice is whether you are a feckless tyrant riding on the coat-tails of others or whether you are a true democrat who cherishes legitimate and credible representation as an expression of the principle of the rule of law.

In aid of this the Agenda 2058 Foundation has decided to assist any person who has supported or voted for a liberal party but who is now denied the right of becoming a member or an activist of that party to be able to seek relief from the courts and be able to bring appropriate charges of discrimination, fraud, extortion and misrepresentation against the offending parties if warranted. You may contact us in this regard through [email protected]