Saturday, July 2, 2022

Political parties use fashion to woo voters

With oversized golden yellow BNF t-shirt, green BCP golfie, and orange/black striped BMD rugby shirt-respectively, Dumelang Saleshando, Gomolemo Motswaledi and Duma Boko could hardly pass for fashion icons at a star rally back in 2011.

But local political parties have of late taken to fashion in a bid to send a stronger, more stylish message to would-be voters.

The race for the general elections gains momentum with every day that passes. Political parties are doing all they can to stand out with their respective manifestos, and promises of a better future.
But there is another subliminal battle that is taking place as the parties hope to lure new unsuspecting voters.

With party regalia, it’s not just about the colors anymore. Parties are finding new innovative and fashionable ways to attract votes.

Branded, stylish clothing and accessories have become part of the campaign strategies.
Fashion has become the new weapon for message dissemination. But pride and status may also be some of the factors fuelling the fashion trend.

The fashion frenzy has definitely taken the party faithfuls by storm as they constantly look to break barriers, push the limits and set new trends with every political gathering.

The branding knows no boundaries ÔÇô from T-shirts, bandanas, caps, water bottles, bottle openers, towels, shirts, German prints, scarves, to armbands, and anything they can put their hands on.

“In the past an average t-shirt would suffice but the growing involvement of young people in politics has brought a lot of changes in the way political parties dress,” says Botswana Congress Party Youth League (BCPYL) president Dithapelo Keorapetse.

He says the youth are all about fashion. “A lot of items have recently been added to party regalia like berets, caps and overalls,” he adds.

Keorapetse says because political parties do not have the capacity to do their own branding, they tend to outsource the service to private companies.

“What people do nowadays is to have their own custom made items. They buy their own items of choice (in party colors) and submit to the companies for branding. This enables them to rock party colors but still remain unique.”

Keorapetse says this new found interest in fashion has also created some form of competition among political organizations.

Fashionable items, he says, have the potential to sway undecided voters.

“Someone would come to you and say ‘I am not affiliated to any political party but I love your outfit’”.

Keorapetse, who has been involved actively in politics since 1999, says the interest in fashionable party regalia only developed as recently as 2009.

“I have been supplying party merchandise for ten years now,” says businessman Shaffi Pandor.
He counts President Ian Khama among his clients. Pandor says he has been branding and supplying political party merchandise for all political parties.

He, however, attributes the new political fashion trend to the “youthful” Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).

“The formation of BMD brought new ideas and revolutionized the way political parties viewed merchandise,” he says. “I know this because I helped set them up when they first started.”

Pandor says other parties borrowed a leaf from the BMD and followed suit. “BCP were the first to come on board followed by the BDP and BNF.” He says most recently the controversial South African, Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), introduced the beret which has also been adopted by local political parties. “BMD also introduced the military cap and rugby shirt,” he adds.

As the day for elections draws near and parties launch their candidates, it remains to be seen who wins the general elections on the fashion front.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper