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MDC-T borrows from Bush campaign
Posted: Tuesday, June 17, 2008

By Philip Murombedzi
June 12, 2008

A COLLEAGUE and columnist of The Zimbabwe Guardian, Lloyd Whitefield Butler Jr. wrote, on June 2, 2008, "U.S. Republican party and MDC-T are alike with media spin deception". He said that "it appears Morgan Tsvangirai is imitating the George Herbert Walker Bush's 1988 campaign against Michael Dukakis."

I couldn't help drawing similarities when Morgan Tsvangirai unveiled his 'campaign bus' yesterday.

This is a true manifestation of the American-style campaigning and image sprucing by Western PR companies – nothing wrong, if it eventually delivers victory to him.

If it doesn't, then Morgan Tsvangirai will look dumb in the eyes of all Zimbabweans and all those PR companies that are helping repair his image.

Does anyone remember a video showing Bush grabbing voters' hands, jumping on and off a campaign bus during his 2004 presidential campaign?

The Bush campaign team drove around the country in the campaign bus they had equipped with sound and light systems, confetti cannons, and various props and costumes. They gave dozens of stump speeches, distributed campaign videos and "USA Patriot Pledges," and performed patriotic songs to audiences across the country.

This works only in America. Africa is not America. The socio-political terrain is different. Media and image spin works differently.

Again this is evidence that Tsvangirai has not yet grasped the true meaning of African society and politics and what African leaders' concerns are.

Tsvangirai does not need buses at the moment. He needs clear strategy and powerful negotiators. That will bring the much needed change, not a bus parked at Harvest House. It might present him as a magnanimous 'hero' or leader, but Zanu PF is still very much part of the daily fabric of Zimbabwean society, moreso than the MDC-T party. They are still in power and control all sectors of the economy and politics.

These tokens being used to spruce up Morgan's image work very well in the West, not in Africa. The 'Zimbabwe Idol' type campaigning works well for countries that understand the need for those tokens and have grown accustomed to those images.

The image of a new Tsvangirai could actually alienate him from his mainstream supporters who will see him distanced from their everyday struggles. What brought him the popularity was his 'commonness', not these symbols. He has to be careful, otherwise these desperate attempts by the West will spell his disaster and his downfall.

Tsvangirai should realise that these tactics are alien to Africa. They have never been tested. So they could well work for him, but I do not see how, or they will make him look like a fool after the heat is off.

The MDC-T leader is using what Whitefield Jr. called "distorted imagery". The public soon wises up to it. The "media spinmiesters" which he identified will not do much for his campaign which was traditionally rooted in the people.

When I saw the 'tour bus' and his 'victory tour' campaign I could not help making comparisons with Simba Makoni's campaign on Facebook. These images make you look cool, but do nothing for victory and power transition and power transfer.

This victory bus – in a few weeks' time – might actually help Tsvangirai launch a commuter business if he loses the election on June 27, 2008.

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