IN the fields of communication and advertising, particularly in the latter, scholars and practitioners usually talk of the Celebrity Endorsement theory and its effects on consumer behaviour.
In simple terms, the theory explains the use of popular characters who have grown in stature to become brands to market a particular product. This has been used across board from retail to politics.
Celebrities play a role in the final stage of meaning transfer because they have created the self. They have done so in public, in the first stage of the meaning transfer process, out of bits and pieces of each role in their careers. The entire world has watched them take shape.
Consumers have looked on as celebrities have selected and combined the meanings contained in the objects, people, and events around them. The self so created is almost always attractive and accomplished. Celebrities build selves well.
The constructed self makes the celebrity a kind of exemplary, inspirational figure to the consumer. Consumers are themselves constantly moving symbolic properties out of consumer goods into their lives to construct aspects of self and world. Not surprising, they admire individuals who have accomplished this task and accomplished it well. Celebrities have been where the consumer is going (McCracken, 1989).
The explanation above gives an insight into why politicians will always resort to name dropping when addressing crowds at rallies or talking to the media.
Name dropping is aimed to endorsing what the speaker stands for, using the names of famous characters whom they will always claim to be following on their footsteps or speaking on their behalf.
Such was the attempt by opposition leader Advocate Nelson Chamisa when he spoke in Bulawayo last week. After having visited the Joshua Nkomo Museum at Matsheumhlophe earlier, Adv Chamisa told the gathering that the Nkomo family told him that he was the first “national leader” to visit the house of the late liberation stalwart and former Vice-President of the country, Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo. He went further to claim that he was offered the walking stick that Father Zimbabwe, as Dr Nkomo was known, used, something that has been refuted by the Nkomo family.
We note the reason why Adv Chamisa visited the Nkomo museum, which is a public place and open to anyone anyway, was perhaps to seek relevance with the people of Bulawayo and the region at large.
But his gesture then attracts further scrutiny when he begins to say things that according to the Nkomo family, are false.
Dr Nkomo’s son, Mr Sibangilizwe Nkomo, said none of the family members knew about Adv Chamisa’s visit to the museum while dismissing as an abomination claims that they offered the MDC-T leader the late VP’s intonga (walking stick). The sceptre became synonymous with Dr Nkomo as he carried it everywhere he went.
“There is nothing like that. Chamisa went to the Matsheumhlope house, which is now a museum, at the invitation of the chief executive officer of the Joshua Nkomo Foundation, Mr Jabulani Hadebe.
“None of the family members knew about his visit. I live in the Pelandaba house and it is a lie that he met any of the family members unless he came here as a ghost. In actual fact, I have never met Chamisa in my life.”
On claims that the family offered Adv Chamisa Dr Nkomo’s intonga, Mr Nkomo said he was shocked: “that a young man like Chamisa can speak such an abomination”
“It’s not a matter that you can joke about. It’s an abomination that he can talk cheaply about intonga ka baba. That’s no ordinary stick, but it carries so much significance in terms of culture and tradition. It’s the property of our ancestors.
It represents our family’s ancestry and it is unacceptable for him to joke around with such matters. In our African tradition, we do not offer intonga ka baba to anyone one who is not a member of the family.
“None of the caretakers at the museum know where that stick is, so we really do not know what he is talking about.”