Robert Mugabe Stars in Rap Videos

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The 86-year-old dictatorial president-for-life of Zimbabwe is taking a break from police-state crackdowns and election-rigging to make an unlikely turn as the star of a series of hip-hop music videos. The Guardian's David Smith reports that Mugabe is appearing in the videos as part of youth outreach. "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?"

The state-sponsored music videos are running on state-run Zimbabwean TV to coincide with the upcoming release of an album by Zimbabwean rap group The Born Free Crew, which have been heralded by the country's state-run media. Those reports say that the album is largely a tribute to Mugabe and a call for young Zimbabweans to remain loyal to the controversial president. Government officials deny that the songs and accompanying videos are an out-and-out government PR campaign, insisting that they are merely a grassroots expression of love for Mugabe, who sent government troops to wage a campaign of violence and intimidation during the 2008 general elections.

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.

The Atlantic Wire has been unable to locate any of these videos on YouTube. If you find them, let us know and we'll post them here.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.