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    Opinions, Comments and Submissions
    March 18, 2002

    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 want.
    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, you
    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.

    The audience
    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.

    No lies
    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 overalls.

    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.

    School children
    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.

    The police
    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.

    The opposition
    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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