EDITORIAL COMMENT: Drop slogans that promote violence, intolerance

Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje (Retired)

Pamberi ne kubatana! Pasi ne MDC!/Phambili ngokubambana! Phansi nge MDC!/Forward with unity! /Down with MDC!

Chinja maitiro!/Maitiro chinja!/ Guqhula izenzo!/Izenzo guqhula/Change your ways! Chihurumende mudenga! Simudza!/Rovera pasi!/Hezvoko bwaa!

Lift the Zanu-PF Government! /Up up up!/Crash it down hard!

The foregoing two paragraphs constitute the slogans that are uttered respectively by Zanu-PF and MDC-T members at their rallies and meetings.

Every speaker at the events utters them before they get into their main addresses.

They constitute the opening remarks that must be uttered as a matter of course before anyone delves into the more substantive issues. Failure to begin one’s address with them attracts all sorts of attacks — that one is a sellout, is not fully committed to the party and so on.

Looking at both chants, there is nothing wrong with their first parts — the Zanu-PF one enjoins the party members and Zimbabweans at large to promote unity while the MDC-T one advocates change. There is nothing wrong with promoting unity or change.

However, their second parts are the problem, not only because of their aggressive wording, but also the body language of the one chanting them and their audiences.

The first part of the ruling party slogan goes with a fist being pumped up into the air but the second part goes with a thrusting of the fist downward.

Similarly, the first part of the MDC-T slogan goes with an open palm into the air, but concludes with both hands “crashing” an opponent or some unwanted policy or programme on the ground.

Indeed, both can be great as mobilisation tools, to energise the party faithful but we agree with some among us who feel that they are needlessly aggressive, antagonistic and not progressive.

It is good that there is a conversation in Zanu-PF to do away with the “pasi/phansi/down with” part.

The party’s national political commissar Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje (Retired), speaking at a Zanu-PF Bulawayo inter-district meeting at Davies Hall in Bulawayo yesterday said the slogan was not part of the revolutionary ethos and has been used to divide the party.

“Some slogans are dividing the party. Those who went to war know that there was no slogan which was chanted without being approved by the leaders.

This is so, especially in regards to (pasi/phansi/down with) slogans. We have realised that whenever someone has a personal issue with a cadre they are quick to denounce them through pasi sloganeering,” he said elsewhere in this issue.

His department is working on a framework of slogans after which it would present them to the party’s Politburo for debate and possible approval or rejection.

“Let us chant pro-developmental slogans instead of slogans that praise individuals,” he said.

“We can only chant slogans that praise our President since he is the one we chose to represent us for the coming elections.”

The “down with, crash on the floor” sections are violent; they promote violence against that which is being crashed onto the floor. They create, in the minds of their members, a position to want to bring down an enemy in the physical sense.

One can argue therefore that some cases of political violence we have experienced could have been a result of the aggressive mindset that arises from the slogans.  They promote intolerance. They constitute hate language, no different from that which is blamed for abetting mass murders in some parts of the world. Because of these and other factors, they must be discarded.

We also feel that the slogans are bad at another level — they are old-fashioned. Our people should not take violent language as good in this day and age.

Violence in any form, whether it is spoken or perpetrated in deed is primitive and degrading.  Our politics must move with the times.

It must be a new form of politics that recognises that all of us cannot always agree politically. We have to agree on the fundamentals of the national interest but we can disagree on other not-so-fundamental matters. And when we disagree on them, there is no need to want to crash an opponent on the floor.

We note the debate that is going on in the ruling party that is likely to result in the offensive parts of its slogan being dropped.  We are looking forward to seeing MDC-T starting their own conversation that will lead to the dropping of words that are equally offensive in theirs.

Article Source: The Chronicle