WINDHOEK – Namibia goes to the polls on 27 November but one hardly seems to see campaign posters, flyers or banners displayed by political parties on the streets as has been the case in past elections.
And it appears that political parties have taken a different approach to campaigning through social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
New Era engaged political analyst Dumba Kamwanyah and the youth active on social media platforms to gauge their views on the use of social media as an election campaign strategy.
Kamwanyah said there is a risk in political parties relying on social media for their campaign strategies because “Namibia is not Facebook or Twitter”.
He explained that a lot of voters do not use social media, especially older voters in rural areas.
“So, the old fashion of meetings and posters might actually do the parties better. Social media may also create the false illusion that a party has followers but in reality there is zero following. Yes, they should have social media strategies but they must be carefully crafted, coordinated and perhaps be targeted especially towards young people,” Kamwanyah suggested.
He also doesn’t see any party having a well-organised social media presence in the election campaign.
“What you are seeing are posts largely from individual supporters/members and much of that information is fake news,” said the University of Namibia (Unam) academic.
Therefore, he reasoned it’s dangerous for parties to leave their social media strategies in the hands of loose individual supporters as it becomes difficult to control the messaging process.
Swapo Party Youth League secretary Ephraim Nekongo said the ruling party has members from different age groups, therefore their campaign is structured in the manner that all their membership receives attention and their message.
“You are talking about Swapo visibility on social media; now our belief is that a big number of our membership engages on social media, therefore it is critical that our visibility on social media is experienced and indeed sufficient. Swapo has been championing the usage of technology to enhance service delivery, and you will notice that our top leadership embraces and utilises social media too, so Swapo visibility is not something new,” Nekongo said.
He however does not agree that there are not posters, banners and flyers in the streets like it was done in the past.
“I don’t agree with your question very much because I see posters around. Even us, we have posters and banners around streets in towns throughout the country. Yes, maybe not as much as in the past. Certainly because of social media that is becoming more effective in spreading the message that would be spread by posters and flyers.”
Nekongo maintained that Swapo is using both modes of campaigning, both social media and the traditional way.
New Era wanted to know if he thinks social media is a powerful means of election campaigning in small democracies like Namibia, seeing that not everyone has access to the internet, especially those in rural areas where the majority of people live.
“Not necessarily, but we cannot ignore the fact that we have the iGeneration to serve as well. They are mostly on social media. We must engage them. Yet we must physically reach out to them,” Nekongo responded.
As the youth league, he said, their presence on social media has been great, adding that their dialogue on social media helps Swapo a lot in terms of getting the views of the electorate, which is important.
Marketing team leader Ludwig Ikwambi, for independent presidential candidate Dr Panduleni Itula, said elections are decided by a small percentage of the population that consists of undecided voters.
He said political campaigns now use social media to establish the candidate’s political identity, educate and attract voters and disseminate information.
He noted that in Namibia alone one has more than 300 000 people that use Facebook daily (ages between 18 and 50 years), disregarding Instagram and Twitter.
Ikwambi said mastering the art of social media strategies is essential for political campaigns to sway voters, although political campaigns have become more intentional about where and with whom they invest their money.
Candidates, advocacy groups and operatives are under more pressure than ever before to get the right message, in front of the right person, at the right time, he added.
“An online presence creates legitimacy – if anybody wants to find out about Dr Panduleni F. B. Itula, all you have to do is type his name into your search engine. The internet is not going anywhere, and technology will only be further integrated into society.
“We are also able to easily engage Dr Itula directly because he is an independent candidate through his social media. Nearly two thirds of Namibia use social media, and for many, it is the first source for news and information gathering,” he indicated.
2019-10-29 07:38:50 | 9 months ago