Over the weekend, social media and major media platforms were flooded with pictures of Zimbabwean president, Emmerson Mnangagwa queuing along with ordinary people to buy fried chicken at a fast food outlet in a town in the capital, Harare.
With just a month to the country’s general election, people were not enthused with the move to appear as a people’s president, seeing it more as an election stunt.
But he can’t be blamed, as, over the years, many African leaders have come up with some rather ridiculous means just to win favour with voters.
They do everything feasible, including devising various tactics just to woo electorates to get them to vote for them in upcoming elections.
Here are some of their election gimmicks:
Public eating with locals
Ahead of Kenya’s general election last year, politicians came up with so many creative campaign strategies just to win votes. A lot of these millionaire politicians, including the president, Uhuru Kenyatta, were seen at road-site eateries and low-end hotels, eating with locals.
In Ghana, some politicians have been seen touring markets buying balls of local delicacy – kenkey – ahead of elections. During the campaign season ahead of the 2012 general election, Nana Akufo-Addo, who was then the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party was seen consuming balls of kenkey with locals in what was described as a desperate move to identify himself with the ordinary Ghanaian.
Four years later, Akufo-Addo was seen again playing cards with locals. These visits to local joints and eateries have been seen as just publicity stunts, especially as the politicians made sure those occurrences were posted on their social media accounts.
Branding household items
In recent years, politicians have branded items such as buckets, detergents, saucepans, laptops and bags of rice with party colours and flyers.
In Ghana, the two major political parties – the New Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Congress – ahead of the 2016 general election, went as far as branding sachets of water and packs of food with their colours and symbols just to woo voters.
The branding tactic that shocked many occurred in Kenya last year when a staunch supporter of President Uhuru Kenyatta campaigned for him with a donkey painted in the president’s party colours and symbols.
Wherever he went with his unique decorated donkey, people looked at him in awe.
African leaders cleaning gutters
African leaders ordinarily do not get on the grounds to do dirty jobs, but when it comes to canvassing for votes, they are ready to do anything at all.
Ghana’s former president, Jerry Rawlings has been described as the one to have set the pace for these kinds of jobs for other African presidents to follow. Since then, other former presidents like Ghana’s John Mahama have been seen cleaning gutters largely for votes.
In 2015, Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli was captured collecting rubbish from the street outside the State House as he joined hundreds of residents for a clean-up exercise in the city, Dar es Salaam.
Goodies and promises
Politicians during heated campaign seasons promise so many goodies just to win favour with voters. Apart from distributing money, some politicians, including current presidents go to the extent of using taxpayers’ monies to purchase school uniforms and sandals and distribute to students.
Parents are also promised products like bicycles, phones, and even cars to influence their votes.
One of the ridiculous promises was the one made by Ghana’s presidential hopeful in the 2016 general election, Edward Mahama. He is reported to have said that school children will get free chicken thighs for lunch if he wins the poll.
African leaders sponsoring pilgrimages
Politicians have over the years paid for food and transportation for prospective Hajj and Jewish pilgrims. In Ghana, the government’s decision to sponsor Christian pilgrims to Israel and other destinations in 2017 was met with wide criticism.
When the John Mahama-led administration decided to send some pastors on a spiritual trip to the holy land of Israel in 2013, many saw the move as a form of “thank you” to his spiritual leaders. For the present administration to reconsider a similar move was seen as not only unnecessary but a waste of taxpayer’s money.