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Robert Mugabe On Anti-Diaspora Rap Album

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ImageRobert Mugabe speaks slang, raps and berates Diaspora Zimbabweans for working in care on a new album by "Born Free Crew". The speech in which he says: "You run off to England, you get there and you get a job cleaning old white folks' behinds" is reproduced on the album which is being given air-play by the ZBC.

The octogenarian's hip-hop début shows lack of leadership, mocking the very people who sustained Zimbabwe when his rule had brought the country's economy to its knees, - professionals in many cases who had no choice but to sustain their families through the easiest jobs they could find.

The catchy tunes are calculated to appeal to young voters ahead of possible elections next year, but analysts say they may not necessary make them vote. The Guardian's Africa Correspondent David Smith Reports:

From William Hague's baseball cap to Gordon Brown's iPod, politicians' attempts to woo the young have often invited ridicule.

Now Robert Mugabe may have outdone them all. Africa's oldest leader, 86, is the improbable star of music videos in which he chats with a teenage rapper, uses urban slang and mocks "old white folks' behinds".

Even his fiercest supporters would be hard pushed to describe him as the epitome of cool. But the radical makeover seems calculated to appeal to young voters in possible elections next year. In the past this task has generally been left to his notoriously brutal Zanu-PF youth militia.

One of the videos, Diaspora, combines an old Mugabe speech berating Zimbabwean exiles with a pulsing dance beat. The president can be heard saying in the shona language: "You run off to England, you get there and you get a job cleaning old white folks' behinds. Who are you running to?"

In another, shown frequently on state television, he sits in his office, picks up a mobile phone and asks a young singer, "Zvirisei-sei?", which translated means "Wassup?"

Zimbabwe's state-run newspaper, the Herald, said the songs are from an album, Get Connected, by a group called The Born Free Crew. "Some of the songs on the album pay tribute to President Mugabe for advocating the total emancipation of not only Zimbabwe but also the continent at large," it added.

"The album opens with the track Network, about the need for people to stay connected with their country as well as the leadership, with President Mugabe at the helm."

The paper said a copy of the album was recently presented to the president.

Jonathan Moyo, a Zanu-PF MP formerly known as Mugabe's spin doctor, said the videos had been created by young musicians rather than Mugabe himself but he assumed they have the president's blessing.

"He has not made this video, they are by young musicians," he said. "These young musicians have decided to put across a message with the assistance of president Mugabe's speeches from the archives and footage from the archives. It's not like he spent three days shooting them."

But Moyo admitted he did not know whether Mugabe had recorded the line Zvirisei-sei, or been subjected to artful editing.

He added: "I can't imagine president Mugabe would disapprove because there is nothing offensive about them. He must be charmed by the realisation that young people reached out to him.

"Normally you'd expect young people to stay away, as he's been presented by his opponents as too old, out of touch and a political dinosaur. This shows the opposite reality. It's not him trying to incorporate young people into his message; it's young people incorporating him into his message."

Heidi Holland, author of the biography Dinner with Mugabe, said she would not be surprised if the 30-year ruler had a hand in the videos.

"Mugabe will stop at nothing to win because that's the core of his personality," she said. "He will adopt whatever persona is required. During an election he does put on all the populist stuff. It's just rather strange for an octogenarian to be donning shades and using hip-hop language."

The videos are not Mugabe's only populist ploy ahead of his desired electoral contest with the Movement for Democratic Change next year. He recently handed a cheque for $300,000 to the Zimbabwean runner-up of the TV reality show Big Brother Africa All Stars. It seemed to work as that runner-up, Munyaradzi Chidzonga, has agreed to campaign for the president.

In the past Mugabe has also flooded state radio with pro-Zanu-PF jingles. South Africa's Mail & Guardian newspaper noted today: "His handlers have tried to make him look cool before. In 2008 they invoked Tupac, using lyrics from the Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z album, to send the message to voters that their troubles were only temporary.

"Using Tupac's lyrics from the song Keep Ya Head Up, one banner declared: 'Through every dark night, there's a bright day after that. So no matter how hard it gets, stick your chest out, keep ya head up.'"

But young Zimbabweans may take more convincing. One 27-year-old, who did not wish to be named, said: "I can imagine going out in Harare or a rural area and seeing people dancing, but because it's catchy, not because they're going to vote."

Last Updated on Sunday, 07 November 2010 05:12  

Bhadharai Pano