By Justice Medzani*
Political promotional messages in the form of slogans, speeches, and songs-cum-jingles enjoy recognition and appropriation in political spaces across the world. Political players use them as a means of communication with and to their electorate. These messages are often prepared and packaged in ways that make it easy for the recipient to relate to or decipher them. While some of the messages are directly conveyed to recipients, for instance, during political rallies, others are prepared for radio, television, and internet (social media) audiences. In Zimbabwe, political promotional messages have been deployed by various political players from the colonial through to the post-colonial or post-independence periods. During colonial times, these messages served as a mobilization tool among the black majority against white repression. In the post-colonial and post-independence contexts, the ruling ZANU PF  has deployed the same strategy, albeit for election campaigning purposes. Using Mertonian terminology, the slogans, speeches, and songs serve the “manifest” function of electioneering. I argue that these messages, however, also serve “latent” functions which are not always directly recognizable, but nonetheless have lasting implications for the patterns of political participation among their recipients.
This paper employs critical discourse analysis to engage the practice of electioneering in the Zimbabwean political landscape. It considers the use of indirect violence (rather than persuasive means) as an electoral strategy by the ruling ZANU PF party. Specific attention centres on the discursive contents and textual representations of selected political promotional messages, political slogans and jingles aired on mainstream media outlets as well as on social media, and their cognitive and socio-political impact on the Zimbabwean populace. It further interrogates the political context in which the political promotional messages are made and disseminated. Discourses are often reflective of the social organisation of their contexts and this paper opines that electioneering in Zimbabwe in many ways expresses the heteropatriarchal gender order and heteronormative and nationalist social values advanced by the dominant ZANU PF party. Critical discourse analysis is a linguistic examination of discourse to show the ways institutionalised agents of power use language to gain and perpetuate dominance and influence over intended subjects (Manyawu, 2013). It is of cardinal significance in this paper as it enhances the understanding of Zimbabwe’s political culture through unearthing the implications of language in texts, songs or utterances, in terms of socio-political power relations.
I would argue that the culture of violence that was nurtured into Zimbabwean society during the struggle for independence in the late 20th century has continued to exist through the post-independent context. This violence is largely reflected in ordinary electioneering messages by political players, particularly those from the ruling party (ZANU PF). While electioneering in other political contexts involves campaigning for elective office or soliciting votes using persuasive means, ZANU PF emotionally and psychologically manipulates and threatens potential voters. Such manipulation is mediated through jingles, slogans and speeches by political leaders, and sometimes through re-aired Chimurenga documentaries which are strategically meant to invoke sad liberation war memories (Nyambi, 2017). Using the Affective Intelligence theory by Marcus et al. (2000), this paper advances the notion that appeals to emotions and feelings of hate, anger, pride, shame, fear, misery and sadness, among others, manipulate political participation in its favour. In terms of Affective Intelligence theory, political behaviour and decision making can be influenced by emotions generated through electioneering (Marcus et al., 2000).
Music and politics in many African contexts are intertwined. Political party supporters often compose songs to mobilise and rally themselves and the would-be-supporters around their leaders and/or party ideologies. In Zimbabwe, both ZANU PF and MDC (as main political movements) have groups and individuals who compose promotional songs for their respective parties. Be that as it may, ZANU PF songs are often turned into jingles and promotional adverts played on national radio and television channels. Zimbabwe has only one TV channel and various radio stations that are predominantly owned by the state or ZANU PF surrogates (ZANU-PF linked). ZANU PF thus enjoys dominance and monopoly of the main media spaces. Such monopoly is sustained through heavy censorship and authoritarian state control among other means of dominance. It is for this reason that this paper focuses on the songs-cum-jingles made by the Mbare Chimurenga choir and those of Tambaoga, (ZANU PF music group and individual singer respectively). Their music is known not only for bolstering support for ZANU PF and its leaders, but also for swearing at and vilifying opposition members and perceived enemies. Ngoshi and Mutekwa (2013) locate their music of the choir within the manifold expressions of ZANU PF propaganda.
Jingles are short tunes, choruses or slogans designed to be easily remembered, and are especially used in advertising. They are mediated by television and radio among other media platforms. On their own, they do not have impact; rather, they become impactful once they are broadcast and are typically used to promote brand identities, such as those of political parties. Jingles are often effective due to the use of captivating or instantly appealing and memorable codes – lyrics and slogans (Manyawu, 2013). As such, they enhance memory of an advertisement, which is a feature upon which politicians model their communication tactics. This feature of jingles conjures a particular political party’s slogans and values among the audience who may then relate that political party to a specific set of values (Manyawu, 2013).
Examples of ZANU PF jingles include Rambai Makashinga (Soldier on), Dai kuri kwedu (In our context), The Blair that I know is a toilet, Timu (Team) and Nyatsoteerera (Listen carefully), among others. Popular slogans and promotional adverts include, “Vote ZANU PF and live!”, “Pamberi neZanu PF, Pasi nemhandu!” (Forward with ZANU PF, Down with enemies), “ED Pfee” (Here enters ED). These jingles have been broadcast at different times since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. Although they are often deployed to promote the ZANU PF brand, they also serve to vilify those who do not support it and instil perpetual fear in them, as may be noted in the succeeding discussion in this paper.
Oral messages delivered publicly by ZANU PF leaders have, in some instances, been turned into jingles aired on Zimbabwean television and radio channels. The former president of ZANU PF, Robert Mugabe, was a well-known orator whose eloquence was recognised the world over (albeit with controversy). It is not surprising, therefore, that some of his speeches were turned into jingles and quoted in most media outlets in Zimbabwe. The popular ones include (but are not limited to) the famous speeches by Robert Mugabe where he referred to homosexuals as “worse than animals” and the one in which he declares Zimbabwe is “his”. Other speeches include the one made by the current leader of ZANU PF, President Mnangagwa, in which he warned ZANU PF members about the chilling consequences of leaving the party. The speech is popularly known as “Hupenyu hwako hunounyana neshizha rabva pana mai waro”, which loosely translates to “Your life will shrink like that of a leaf plucked from its mother (a tree)”. A common thread of vitriol, hate, and abusive language can be traced in these quoted speeches, making them of great interest to this paper. In terms of Affective Intelligence theory, these evoked emotions have a bearing on political choices that the target population will have to make during elections, or when disenfranchised or dissatisfied by state polices.
While it is unquestionable that political promotion messages communicated through jingles, slogans, adverts and speeches serve to promote the respective political brands, they may also posture as instruments through which indirect violence is meted to the audience. Violence cannot be reduced to only those physical acts that leave obvious scars. It is sometimes revealed through seemingly benign but prejudicial acts like hate statements, anger invoking or insulting jingles. On the face of it, indirect violence mediated through jingles, political slogans and speeches may be viewed as entertaining and innocuous, yet they carry messages that permit subtle forms of political hegemonic sustenance.
These forms of violence are commonplace, especially in Zimbabwe where the government is often labelled as authoritarian. One has to look closely to the originators, the broader political context, and the lyrical or textual content of the promotional messages, to have a better perspective on the way they are gendered and promote violence. It is also through the way the various electioneering strategies as songs, speeches and slogans evoke emotions whose effect can be to structure or determine the political behaviours and decisions of their audiences.
Emotional appeal is one among other instruments and means by which politicians hold their campaigns (Ridout & Searles, 2011), although some (especially the proponents of Rational Choice theory Becker and Murphy (1988)) consider emotion-determined responses in politics as a nuisance. Electioneering in Zimbabwe is, as can be noted in the identified speeches, slogans and jingles, as much an emotional terrain as it is a socio-political one. Invoking emotions of fear, anger, shame, hate, sadness, and hurt, inter alia, during election periods is a ZANU PF trend whose pattern can be associated with its election victories throughout Zimbabwe’s election history. Ongoing threats and or shaming veiled in the campaign music and ZANU PF political slogans and speeches evoke fear and worthlessness among would-be opposition voters, prompting them to reconsider voting for the opposition. The whole electioneering discourse becomes a mental and emotional exercise with socio-political implications.
The Mbare Chimurenga Choir, (a music group that sang most of the ZANU PF jingles), is a female led, composed and dominated group (Ngoshi & Mutekwa, 2013). Two of the group’s most popular songs include, “Muri Musoja”, “Ndimi Mega” and “Timu”. In all of the songs the group celebrates their party while also venerating the positions of their leaders, especially the male ones, who are portrayed as real men who, due to their maleness, deserve to be leaders. In the song, “Ndimi Mega” song they note that:
VaMuGabe pakutonga, ndimega baba!
Ndimega baba! Ndimi mega baba! Muri mukuru, mukuru, mukuru!
(Mr Mugabe you are unmatched, when it comes to leadership! You are the only one! You are the only one! You are great, great, great!)
The group makes it clear that it is only Mugabe who can be the leader of Zimbabwe. They, as women, do not portray themselves as capable contenders of the same position that Mugabe held. There is nothing in Zimbabwe’s legal framework which bars women from aspiring to the highest political office, although it’s known that socio-cultural patriarchal norms dominate and may hinder women’s progress in leadership. The various pieces of music performed by Mbare Chimurenga Choir show their patronage as symbolic reproducers of the nation in the nationalist project (Ngoshi & Mutekwa, 2013). The women’s music is a reflection of the social and gender order within which they live, and they act out the internalised patriarchal notions of leadership whereby only men are portrayed as capable.
Questions may be raised regarding women’s performance in these jingles. Such questions may pertain to whether such performance may be understood as the expression of the women’s own agency. Feminist literature (Kandiyoti, 1988; Jungar & Oinas, 2011; McNay, 2013) has projected women as having agency, however, within the constraints of patriarchy. Mbare Chimurenga Choir’s songs and their visuals, which have been made jingles through recurrent airplay, show how (through the way they celebrate in the video), women sustain applause for male achievements, while embodying the patriarchal version of motherhood, thereby, bolstering their representation as maidservants in the nationalist project. There also is evidence that women’s bodies are constantly under men’s surveillance in patriarchal contexts, the world over (Chiweshe, 2016). Thus, labelling those women who compose and perform the political promotional messages as having agency, may not give the clear and full depiction of the dynamics in patriarchal contexts as Zimbabwe. I rather argue that women are exploited by the powerful men in their political movements-for an agenda that is not emancipatory on their part. Other forms of agency and resistance to ZANU PF “jingle-indoctrination” include, inter alia, the rise of digital activism by social movements (such as Baba Jukwa, #ThisFlag and #Tajamuka) and individuals, who use their social media profiles to oppose government policies (ZANU PF policies) and to campaign for opposition parties.
The lyrics in the above song (Ndimi mega) present Mugabe as the epitome of leadership, whose authority is unmatched. It is interesting to note the lyrics also portray the character of Mugabe, who himself thought no one was capable of leading Zimbabwe other than him. While they do not use Mugabe’s nickname (Bob), their repetition of the words, “Ndimi mega” and “mukuru” are symbolic of the crowned piece “Bob/ King” in the Draughts game. This piece can move and capture in many directions, giving it an advantage and power over uncrowned pieces whose moves are restricted. His nickname is symbolic, especially when one considers the above-stated lyrics, as he has a known history of eliminating perceived competitors.
Turning to orators like Mugabe, who at the time he made the speeches quoted above was the president of the country, one may not help but notice the glaring boastfulness and fatherly posture that he takes in his speeches. He views himself as the nationalist-masculinist who owns Zimbabwe and thus has authority to reprimand practices like homosexuality, thereby prescribing for everyone in the country how they should behave in their bedrooms. All of Mugabe’s above noted speeches clearly show his posturing as the masculine leader who commands authority as the father of the household, thereby feminising or infantilising everyone else who falls under his authority.
The message communicated through promotional slogans or songs is presented and contained in the lyrics or text of the songs. The words used by the message composers are reflective of the intended impact on the recipients. The language used in the Mbare Chimurenga Choir and Tambaoga songs, as well as in some of the noted political adverts and speeches, is enriched with meanings that point to crucial aspects about ZANU PF’s strategies in constructing and sustaining a political dominance. For Nyambi (2017) coercion rather than persuasion seem to be the core avenue through which ZANU PF crafted and maintained its hegemony and this paper concurs with that view although I would assert that most of the jingles and slogans used by ZANU PF are by and large coercions with subtle “persuasive” quality.
Some of the promotional messages have since been taken off air, for instance, the “Vote ZANU PF and Live!” political advert which dominated ZANU PF’s television campaign messages around the year 1990 (FlemmishWeasel, 2008) and a speech made by Mugabe in 2008 where he noted that the “days of those in the opposition were numbered”. The psycho-emotional impact of these messages on the would-be opposition voters, however, cannot be overemphasised and the fear they instil lasts long after the date of their broadcast. As Ridout and Searles (2011) note, political decisions of the recipients of such messages are largely determined by such emotions evoked and sustained through the noted electioneering strategies. Yet also rebellion and resistance against such strategies is expressed by urban voters who have successively voted for the opposition MDC party.
The Mbare Chimurenga Choir song-cum-jingle named “Nyatsoteerera” is one among other songs where the language used is imbued with gloating and praises for ZANU PF leadership.
Nyatsoteerera unzwe kutonga, haa muoffice muna Bob, Nyatsoteerera unzwe kutonga!
(Listen carefully and pay attention to Bob who is leading the country).
The song venerates Mugabe and his leadership portraying him as the one and only capable, against perceived but unnamed aspirants. It further fondly refers to him (Mugabe) with his nickname “Bob”. This can be viewed as an attempt at frustrating the opposition voice in government (considering that the jingle was aired on radio and television during the inclusive government period where opposition leaders also held government positions of Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and many other cabinet positions) as well as the voices of those who voted for it. It can further be understood as the administration of mental torture on opposition supporters. They are portrayed as nonentities or non-existent, while ZANU PF and its leadership are presented as the sole government and thus the only legitimate leaders. These and other songs, speeches and promotional messages portray the ways in which indirect and largely covert forms or violence are imposed on Zimbabweans and thus instilling perpetual fear of the state among them.
In the context of this paper the targets are in most cases opposition political party members and supporters, who are often threatened, intimidated, and scolded for their differing views to those of the ruling ZANU PF. Passive or indirect forms of violence are invisible and unlike physical violence cannot be observed. However, threats, intimidation, or name-calling by people in authority such as national presidents can instil fear in their targets. This is especially the case if such threats are mediated through jingles, speeches and slogans that are repeatedly aired on the only media outlets available (Ngoshi & Mutekwa, 2013).
Although referring to a very different context and experience, Pinheiro points to the detrimental impact or effects of “subtle but cumulative … violence”on its targets. Borrowing from Affective Intelligence theory, I opine that the indirect and emotional violence instilled through evoking emotions of shame and or fear result in the would-be voters reconsidering voting against ZANU PF and the consequences that might ensue. The political result of such cumulative fear is thereby the continued dominance of the ZANU PF party. However, as Willems (2010); and Mawere (2016) note, such indirect violence is in some cases resisted through means that are sometimes also non-confrontational. In the context of Zimbabwe there has been an increase in social media activism which saw the rise of social movements as #Tajamuka and #ThisFlag, both of which signify resistance.
The paper critiques the role of music, slogans and speeches by political players in mediating political violence for the Zimbabwean populace. Chiridza et al. (2015) note that Chimurenga (war time) music raised great inspiration and determination among black fighters during the armed struggle between black military groups and the minority white government army. However, after the war, music, slogans, and speeches were used mainly by the ZANU PF government as a violent means to consolidate power and retain political dominance. Political players in Zimbabwe (particularly the ruling ZANU PF) use political promotional messages to intimidate, threaten, and pacify would-be opponents or dissenters. These messages contribute to fear of the state amongst the populace, and to continued ZANU PF hegemony. The paper argues for political communication that is free of violence or any overtones thereof.
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Justice M. Medzani is currently a Postdoctoral researcher at the CSA&G. He joined the Department of Political Sciences and the CSA&G as a Postdoctoral researcher in July 2020. He has research interests in broad interconnected areas of family sociology, gender-based violence; identities (masculinities, femininities and sexualities); gender inequality, and vulnerability. He values and identifies with the advancement of social inclusion as a policy and or everyday life approach. He worked for the Government of Zimbabwe in the Ministry of Justice prior to enrolling as a Doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Pretoria (UP) in 2017.
 The Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) is a political party in Zimbabwe. It was formed through an alliance of a faction of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) party led by Robert Mugabe and the (PF-ZAPU) Patriotic Front-Zimbabwe African People’s Union led by Joshua Nkomo. Albeit contestations, the party has won Zimbabwean elections since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.
 Robert Merton (1957) “Social Theory and Social Structure” Glencoe, IL: Free Press, pp. 60 – 69 defines manifest functions as “those objective consequences recognized by participants in the system” while by contrast, latent functions are “those which are not recognized”.
 Although there might be more than one MDC grouping, reference here is made to all of them as they share the common feature of political music.
 Mbare Chimurenga Choir is a music group based in Mbare (Zimbabwe’s oldest high-density suburb). It consists of forty members and most of whom are women. The group sings and performs ZANU-PF praise songs which are then aired as jingles on Zimbabwe’s mainstream media.
 Zimbabwean ZANU PF supporter and musician.
 Mare, A. (2017). Baba Jukwa and the Digital Repertoires of Connective Action in a ‘Competitive Authoritarian Regime’: The Case of Zimbabwe. In B. Mutsvairo (Ed.), Digital activism in the social media era: Critical reflections on emerging trends in sub-Saharan Africa (pp. 45-68). New Castle: Taylor & Francis.
 Robert Mugabe, the former president of Zimbabwe addressing a rally, stated clearly that the days of those in the opposition were number. https://youtu.be/Ap-hkMjpdEE?list=TLPQMjMwMjIwMjHGsJhiEH6XeA&t=627
 The Movement for Democratic Change is a centre-left political party and main opposition party in the House of Assembly of Zimbabwe. It was formed by, among other people, its first president, the late Morgan Tsvangirai. MDC has had various splinter parties and, in some instances, changed its name. The name MDC used herein is a reference to all the factions and splinter groups.