/ 15 October 2008

‘You can’t sell anger’

It took me two years to leave the PAC. It’s a leap of faith — you’re putting your future in the hands of the voters.

I’d done a lot of community work over the years and because of that I knew that I had the emotional support of the people in the country. But I did a survey that cost me R50 000, which confirmed that I had support in all provinces.

The most important thing in starting a party is structures, structures and more structures.

When I started it was 10 months before the elections and I set out to recruit 5 000 members in every province. You need party agents, volunteers, people who can manage elections. However noble your idea, if you don’t have structures to underpin that idea, it means nothing. You have to give voters something different, because we’re all competing for the same voter base.

Once you make an announcement, you need to do three things: policy development, recruitment and put the administration in place, which includes funding.

Funding is critical. To this day I still hate having to go and ask for money. You really have to beg. There is no party political funding to help with campaigns, so you have to do it all yourself.

Your biggest expense is posters — what’s expensive is the backing board. Then you must have pamphlets. We printed 10-million pamphlets for the first election campaign. You need T-shirts and all the other party paraphernalia you need to be visible to voters.

If you’re going to cover the whole country in your campaign, you need money for travel, accommodation and transport for people to attend rallies.

You get a lot of people who come with their own agenda and disappear when they don’t get elected. You get a lot of opportunists, people who got kicked out of other parties because they didn’t work. They don’t tell you this at the start. They don’t give you the true stories about why they left.

The most difficult part is mobilising and organising. You have to engage with churches and civil society. You can’t sell anger — that doesn’t work. You have to show voters how you can change their lives.

I did a lot of roadshows and research led me to focus on urban areas because it showed me where my support is. Then you’ve got to fish where the fish are. And be prepared to listen. People will vote for anyone who will make their lives easier.

You’ll need between R1-million and R2-million to get started. Make sure you have about 20 people who can help you set up a branch. Six months is very little time to get a party ready for the election, but if [Lekota’s rebels] take over complete branches of the ANC, they have a chance.

Also make sure you have a high-profile person that is very well known as a face for the party to help you launch the brand.

Be everywhere, attend weddings, funerals, everything. At the beginning I had ready-made crowds. I would for instance ask to address the crowd at the Coon Carnival. You really have to be visible.

As told to Mandy Rossouw