Editor's Comment

Politicians must adapt

THE general elections slated for August 12 are slowly but surely drawing near.  Very soon Electoral Commission of Zambia will blow the whistle to officially kick-start campaigns.
However, this year’s campaigns will be, or should be, very different from any other political campaigns conducted in the past.  This is because of the raging COVID-19 pandemic, which has drastically altered human interactions.
COVID-19, which first reared its ugly head in Wuhan, China, in 2019, has extensively affected all spheres of human life and politics has not been spared.
COVID-19, which is highly contagious has claimed over 2 million lives globally. In Zambia, so far, the cumulative number of cases are 46,146 with 6,847 active cases and 660 COVID-19 and related deaths.
The first wave of the pandemic was not as severe as the second wave, which has seen a sharp rise in cases and this should be a constant warning that there just has got to be a change in the manner people conduct themselves.
During the first wave, for many people the daily updates were nothing but mere numbers. Now, the statistics are revealing names.  Friends and relatives are suffering the grief of seeing or hearing of people that are close to them being hospitalised or dying.
It is indisputable that the pandemic, if not put under control, will cause more havoc than ever imagined.
There is need for a delicate balance between continuing with daily activities and keeping the disease under control. From the persistence of the pandemic, it is clear the disease may linger on longer than anticipated. As such, life must continue but of course under the new normal.
Similarly, the general elections slated for August must go on and so should the campaigns.
However, politicians this time around must think outside the box and conduct campaigns under the new normal. Under the new normal, physical interactions are restricted and we know that for a long time political parties have depended on huge physical rallies as avenues for delivering their campaign messages to people.
This time around political parties have no choice but to adopt alternative strategies and hope for the same impact.  Strategies could include mobile public address communication and distribution of flyers as suggested by Electoral Commission of Zambia.
Political parties in Zambia will also do well to learn from other countries like the United States of America, where political parties and their candidates relied more on social media platforms such as Facebook, Zoom and snapchats.  They also targeted digital adverts to deliver their campaign messages.
Joe Biden, the eventual winner of the Presidential election, put the lives of the Americans first and so instead of calling for rallies, he used alternative communication channels such as the media.
Political parties in Zambia can learn from this recent election in the USA.
Politicians need to safeguard lives as they go about campaigning. Under the circumstances, the best way to reach the urban population, for instance, is through social media as well as traditional media.
Political parties’ media teams should get busy in acquiring all the necessary social media skills to be able to leverage on these platforms during their campaigns.
Some have already started.  This is good.
Political parties should also work with traditional media – both print and electronic- to enhance their chances of getting to the electorate.
To cater for the rural population with no internet access, mobile public addresses and distribution of flyers can be effective.  These can be used in urban areas, too.
While political parties may be allowed to hold physical meetings of up to 50 people, this must be under very strict guidelines and only when absolutely necessary.
After all, it just takes one person to spread the virus – whether they are 10, 50, 100 or more.
When the campaigns officially start, ECZ must impose its authority in ensuring adherence to regulations and guidelines.
There must be life after voting.

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