I know there’s an old adage that says candidates need to “shake hands and kiss babies” to get elected, but, seriously, maybe let’s just keep the kids out of politics and stop using them for these awkward photo ops.
I started thinking about this once I saw the recent video of Nelson Chamisa just randomly stoping to talk to kids that looked like they were walking home from school.
One of those filming Chamisa even tried to get these school kids to chant the slogan (ngaapindemukomana) to which Chamisa gestured a no no. Credit to Chamisa for that.
Then there is an image that also got into circulation on social media of President Mnangagwa talking to a child who seemed very uncomfortable if not uninterested in conversing through a car window with the big man with a mask on the image is just a terrible tableau.
Chamisa to his credit tried to act naturally, holding a conversation the little girl he just plucked out of the crowd singling her out as clever because she greeted him and addressed him as ‘President’. She in turn got thanked for that she got 5 USDollars. This too just like the Mnangagwa tableau was bad.
Understandably these politicians are trying to sell themselves as a family man or leaders who care for the plight of the young ones.
But then there’s this nagging issue that the kids used in these photo ops don’t understand all the consent issues, they don’t realise that they’re going to be an internet meme within an hour. And that doesn’t feel right.
As a nation, indeed as Zimbabweans we should not place our sons and daughters in that position. We can’t let politicians use them like that.
As a people we have to stop consenting to allow our children to be used as political props. We need to realize that it’s not like letting kids take pictures with Santa. We’re basically agreeing to let our kids function as propaganda for Zanu and the MDC Alliance for that matter.
After the past election cycles, which were littered with all sorts of violence Zimbabwean adults should be more than familiar with how our 24/7 news cycle works. When politicians start preying on innocent kids and use them for political props — we should instantly realize “Oh shit, these kids are going to be all over Twitter in the next 10 seconds and plastered all over Facebook and other social media platforms.
I personally think that kids and politicians are a weird mix. What worries me is that these Politicians seem to think that children humanize them. “Hey, look at me, I’m their Uncle/Aunt or their presidential choice. But that’s never actually the case.
The truth of the matter may well be that these politicians (both Chamisa and Mnangagwa) are unapologetically selling themselves to the electorate and these young children who obviously have no political leanings themselves, have been shoved into the spotlight by these politicians without consent. They are just kids on their way home from school or out playing.
There’s a reason as to why I find this so unsettling. For me it is because I feel as though those children are being used to sell a non-age-appropriate product. If a kid appears in a cereal commercial, it’s fine. But imagine how you’d feel if you saw a kid as the public face of a Viagra commercial. Doesn’t feel right, does it?
I think these impromptu photo ops by either Chamisa or Mnangagwa with innocent kids who are really just trying to get on with their day is no different.
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