By Tapiwa Gomo
As the 2023 elections draw closer, jockeying and jostling for political party candidature will soon become the order of the day. The process itself is far from clean.
It involves pleasing the entire hierarchy of all levers of party political power and that does not come cheap. It also involves sending gifts and donations to the grassroots to entice them to vote for you.
At this stage it is not about ideas. It is about what one can bring to the tables of those who lead the party and perhaps the government. That comes in two forms. First, it is the gifts and donations; and second is the political clout. So all the hard work is not about the prospects of the candidate or the people but pleasing those in power.
You entered politics with a muddled vision of what it means. You think it is about serving the people and the country. You believed in transformative ideas but you are also aware that contesting as an independent candidate in Africa is a huge tall order.
You are also aware that elsewhere several trends have fast-tracked the demise of political parties because they have become patronage schemes that reward the leaders and supporters with gifts and donations instead of advancing the welfare of the people and economic growth.
So you join a political party for its supposed to clout and clamour.
You convinced them that you strongly believed in their political party because they were the core organisation of democratic accountability, vision and programme implementation. Your journey begins. No one had told you that once elections have come and gone, the party leadership will wine and dine with the victorious ones because they bring political currency to the business of power.
If you lose, you are discarded. But if you are one of the victorious ones, count yourself lucky.
Then comes the process of aligning yourself, your thinking and behaviour with party policies, reciting them at every gathering, making them sound relevant to the work of government and the future of the country even when you have zero belief in them. In fact, you forget why you joined politics as soon as you realised you had enslaved yourself.
At this stage you wake up to a new reality you never anticipated. You start realising that your primary objective is to recover personal resources invested in pleasing the party to win the political seat. That too is not an easy ride. It is all about pleasing power and dancing to its tune to be selected in the influential and powerful government and parliamentary positions.
It is also about assuring power that whatever loot you take from State coffers, you make a point to share a percentage with power. It is all about massaging power so your criminal activities will not be seen as corruption. If you miss a subscription, the political guillotine in the name of abuse of office and corruption will be right on your neck baying for your blood.
As you do so, you keep your eyes on the next election. You have done a lesson learnt exercise from your previous elections experience.
To your advantage you now know the ins and outs of all the political games plus you now possess power and influence in the party and government.
You now swing with them but you are also aware that there are others on the political wings heavily subscribing to power hoping to enter the party and government.
You fear that access to power in this system is given on the basis of the highest bidder.
So your game now until the next election has to be stronger. Give everything to power. Call them the chosen ones, the gods, the omnipotent, the untouchable and the holy ones.
Ensure that everyone who holds a pen or microphone is well incentivised to amplify your message so it echoes across all the political mountains and rivers until it reaches the heart of leadership.
When you hear the leadership address you as an example of their loyal daughter or son, then you know the message has been received and your next candidature is secure.
You now have a deeper understanding of the nature of the game.
It is about stealing more, consistently sending your subscriptions to power, pledging your unquestionable allegiance, while ensuring that the structures in your constituency and the people who run your campaign are kept happy.
The bills are huge. You may feel captured or perhaps you are. You feel short-changed, overused or misled. Take a glass of cold water and move on. Those thoughts will appetise the system. It loves chewing and eating its own. You have a family to raise.
In addition, do not be bothered by people who wonder why you have nothing to show for all the hard work, appearances in the media, the political power and access to resources that you have enjoyed over the course of your term of office.
They do not know how taxing this business is and that all the hard work is to please power by giving it more power. Power does not steals. It receives from those who do. It plays it safe.
You are still willing to go and recover your losses but you are mentally and emotionally exhausted. Sadly you cannot tell anyone for fear of being preyed on.
At this stage you now understand why your predecessors became full-time shameless looters of government resources. You now understand why some among and before you were so brutal and heartless.
You also now understand why some of your predecessors became poor the day they were fired. It is a borrowed lifestyle that is enjoyed at the whims of power. Such are the untold experiences of our political party politicians.
- Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity.