Bob Marley, Tupac Image Used In Mugabe Slander Campaign
Global marketing giant Young & Rubicam have begun a sell-off of their holdings in Zimbabwe after learning the company’s head was behind Robert Mugabe’s election campaign image makeover, as well as adverts that mock Britain and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
Imago Y&R, headed by Sharon Mugabe (no relation to the president), has introduced pop culture figures such as rapper Tupac Shakur and reggae icon Bob Marley to “sex up” a campaign that Mugabe’s own advisers called dismal, prior to the March 29 elections. Bernard Barnett, a Y&R corporate vice-president in London, told the Sunday Times that, following a tip-off, Sharon Mugabe had been asked this week whether her company was the “professional media outfit” called in by Robert Mugabe’s advisers after the last elections.
“We asked the managing director if it was true - that they had been working for Zanu PF - and she said she personally was one of the president’s communications advisers,” said Barnett. “It was a very unpleasant surprise.
Neither she nor the agency should be working for a regime like that, and especially not campaigning for them.” Having earned business degrees in the US and Europe, Mugabe was communications chief for African Banking Corporation before buying a controlling stake in Imago in 2005. Barnett said the global company would sell its 25% stake in Imago “probably next week, and probably to Sharon Mugabe”. He said that speed, rather than profit, would be the priority. “We’re just anxious to end any possible connection between ourselves and that disgraceful regime,” he said.
Among Mugabe’s new campaign ads is a television commercial showing the face of former UK prime minister Tony Blair morphing into the faces of US President George Bush, new UK leader Gordon Brown and, finally, MDC Morgan Tsvangirai, under the heading “The Losers Club” (sic). A print ad says that “Tsvangirai’s faction has a reputation for violence”, another ad uses lyrics from Tupac’s album Strictly for My Niggaz, and still another, attributed to Sharon Mugabe, asks: “What do the British and Americans want from Zimbabwe? Our minerals.” Sharon Mugabe could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press. Barnett said she had insisted that she was doing the work in her private capacity. However, Barnett said, Young & Rubicam had concluded that Imago Y&R was, in fact, involved with the election campaign.
Meanwhile, the MDC has been barred from showing its campaign adverts in any state newspaper, or on the public broadcaster. Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation chief executive Henry Muradzikwa was fired in April for allowing some MDC ads to be flighted prior to March 29. Three of them - including a “my fellow Zimbabweans” message from Tsvangirai and one showing actors bemoaning poor service delivery and deciding “Let’s finish it” - can only be seen on satellite TV.
The Reggae News Agency