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A Short Campaign Manual
by Chenjerai Hove
Since the nation is heading for serious elections, it would seem
normal for me to write a short campaign manual, especially for the
ruling party which, despite many years in power, has not been able
to produce certain basic principles and procedures on how to campaign.
Other political parties may use the manual, but as far as I can
see, it is the ruling party which needs it most.
If you intend to be a respectable politician, arrive at the rally
exactly on time, or even before the beginning of the rally so that
you can chat with the people and hear their voices about what they
And if it so happens that you are supposed to speak for two hours,
just do simple arithmetic: divide that time by 10 and you will get
something like 12 minutes. You should speak for 12 minutes, and
the rest of the time you should be spoken to by the voters. Just
remember that you have one mouth and two ears. The rule of thump
is that listen twice more than you speak. If you speak for two minutes,
must listen for four minutes. Also remember that you are not the
only one with a mouth. A rally of 10 000 people has the same number
of mouths, and about 20 000 ears, and lots of brains too.
If the people allow you to speak, you should use the language of
persuasion, not threats. You must say to them, I request you to
vote for me so I can try to do certain things which you have asked
me to do. I will listen to you and try my best to be your messenger,
not your master. Always choose the language of humility, not boastfulness
and all that sort of bombastic language. You should tell the voters
that you submit yourself humbly to their demands. Use language the
voters understand. Avoid English at all times since you did not
give the voters money to go to school to learn the language.
Do not make promises which you cannot fulfil. For example, if there
is no river in the area, do not tell them that you will build bridges
for them. If they have not asked you for a school or clinic, do
not tell them that you will build schools and clinics before you
know if they have children who need school or they have been stung
by mosquitoes recently.
You should always know the voters are not foolish. They might not
have a university degree or diploma which you have, but it is important
to know that they are clear about what they want their lives to
be today and tomorrow. If you speak for too long, they will clap
hands when you finish. Sometimes
they clap hands to congratulate themselves for having withstood
so much rubbish from one man.
The elders are especially important for observation. They always
wonder how a man can speak for so long if he does not end up telling
lies "Vakachenjera vanoti zvipei doro." (wise people will
wish they could just give you a beer and forget about you.)
Curses and threats
You should not curse at the voters, especially swearing by your
dead mother, or threatening the voters with all sorts of ghosts
and misfortunes if they do not vote for you. Do not tell them about
your death wishes.
Our elders said you should not tell lies. The Bible came later and
confirmed it. Thou shalt not tell lies.
If you ever feel you are going to tell a lie, take a deep breath,
and then shut up.
You should avoid abusing the young people by giving them false promises
and money as if you were Father Christmas. If you want to be Father
Christmas, wait for the occasion of Christmas and they will give
you robes and a beard to wear for the children. Dishing out money
is in bad taste because only foolish people do that. Just talk the
facts and wait for the opinions of the voters.
If women decide to dance, you must know that they are not dancing
for you. They are dancing to enjoy the movement of their bodies,
and also to exercise a bit. In the process, they are enjoying a
sense of community which, in this case, does not even include you.
Do not try to join their dance because since you have not danced
for so long, and you are also fat, you will spoil their act. Since
they are polite, they will not shout at you to stop messing up their
dance. It is only after you leave that they will talk about your
foolishness in the area of dance.
Clapping of hands
This a physical exercise which has nothing to do with the number
of votes you might get.
Just dress normally. You should avoid wearing suits in the heat
of the country. The people do not mind even if you wear a pair of
If you should slaughter a beast for the voters, tell them where
you got it from, then participate in the cooking and sit under a
tree, eating with the voters.
These should be banned from all your rallies. They are not yet of
voting age, and they do not want to lose school in order to listen
to an adult who is talking a lot of rubbish and nonsense.
Avoid inviting the police, armed or not, to your rallies. The people
fear the police and the army, and guns and handcuffs. The voters
will associate these evils with you, if you bring the police and
the army to your meetings.
Drive a simple car and avoid showing off to voters who know they
will never drive in that kind of car. If possible, take the local
bus and arrive like them, simple and clear in your mind, although
you might have lots of dust on your hair.
If you shout at the opposition, know that you are also campaigning
for them. Just deal with your agenda and forget about insulting
the opposition. If you call them your 'enemies', the voters will
want to know their side of the story as well. Make a clear difference
between the 'opposition' and the 'enemy'. Those are two different
ideas, and at the moment we do not have enemies. Try to avoid putting
the voters into a frame of mind in which they would want to scrutinise
you after you have left.
Always carry this manual with you for future reference in case of
need. For the slow learners who take over 20 years to absorb these
ideas, you could put them on tape and listen to them through your
walkie-talkie. Any politician who needs further advice should contact
me, but they would have to pay a fee this time.
* Chenjerai Hove is a renowned Zimbabwean writer.
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