The Idea of One People, Government Policy, and Mapfumo's Music

Alice Dadirai Kwaramba, M. Phil.

The policies that were adopted [at Independence], namely socialism and reconciliation, had not been debated between the leadership and the people. They were rather imposed on the people. Therefore, there was need to make the majority and all other interested parties feel part of the policies, and hence the extensive use of "we" in political discourse. It sought to build consensus by appealing for co-operation from the people, by making them feel they were part of the ZANU(PF) government's policies which had been implemented without their initial consent. The newspapers, radio, speeches at rallies and even the arts helped foster this consensus. For example, an analysis of the poems in the two sections, "The Black Man's Burden" and "And The People Celebrate" shows the abundant use of this pronoun "we", capturing the collective spirit of the time. Some poems in fact have it for titles, for example, the poems, "We", by Forbes Karimakwenda, and "We" by Colleen Samupindi (Kadhani and Zimunya 1981: 40-41).

In the political discourse of the period the "we" spirit was further propagated through use of other friendly terms such as "Comrade" (a term used by socialists and Marxists). Loosely translated, it means companion and fellow member of the party. In political discourse it has strong connotations of power, where it is often used to refer to people at the same power level and sharing the same ideology and goals. It was used in this sense in the political discourse at independence as a title for everyone, thus blurring power distinctions between the party ZANU(PF), the government and "the people". This would create the impression that everyone was equal in terms of power, thus making the people believe that they were also part of the decision-making process, and that the policies the government had in fact imposed on them were therefore theirs as well. This would potentially manufacture consent.


[from Alice Dadirai Kwaramba, Popular Music and Society: The Language of Chiumurenga Music: The Case of Thomas Mapfumo in Zimbabwe. Oslo: University of Oslo, 1997. pages 95-96. Available from Department of Media and Communications [info@media.uio.no].


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