HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsCan you shake hands with a clenched fist?

Can you shake hands with a clenched fist?


Once the constitutional review process comes to an end and a new constitution comes into effect, our country will head towards another election.

The mood among the major parties is slowly getting combative.

With memories of the past election still vivid in our minds, the thought of going for another election is not a pleasant one.

Our memories of the past election are not good and the scars have not healed.

All we remember are friends and neighbours who were beaten up because they belonged to the “wrong camp.”

We also remember others whose properties were destroyed because they were perceived to be traitors.

And then there are those who went missing and whose remains will never be found.

These are the memories that we carry inside our skins, on our backs, and take to wherever we go – memories that should never be allowed to happen again.

Once the constitution has been written (our hope is that it will pass through the referendum without a lot of hullabaloo), then it will be straight to the election.

And the language and the strategies for the different political parties will obviously change. Gone will be the reconciliatory tone of the GPA.

Gone will be the desire to share and walk in the same path. The country will suddenly become a jungle where only the fittest survive.

Campaign strategies will come in different forms. Slogans and party symbols will be flying all over the place.

But how are we going to avoid what happened in past elections when the parties are still using the same slogans, symbols and election strategies?

The same symbols, slogans and strategies that encouraged violence and intimidation of each other?

The symbols used in the past election never spoke of peace or unity. They denoted something totally opposite. A fist? An open palm? A charging bull? Are these symbols of peace, unity and oneness?

Most of the political symbols have violence written all over them and this means there is a serious need to relook at these symbols, a need to look into the future and not the past as most of these party symbols seem to suggest.

Of course, in the past there was an honest need to exhibit strength, power, and other macho characteristics – then we were all looking for heroes – fighters, warriors, and soldiers to liberate us out of colonial bondage.

These warriors and heroes came and delivered us out of bondage and that is why we sing their praise songs and worship the places we buried those that fell while trying to bring us freedom.

But things have changed. Now we need a new kind of a hero; the kind that is not violent or does not sell violence as a commodity in the streets.

We need a hero who will make the whole nation sleep peacefully in the knowledge that the country is in safe hands: a hero who preaches forgiveness, tolerance, peace and progress, a hero who will glue this nation together.

It is just sad that most of our symbols are about the past or a counter reaction to other bad symbols. A fist to smash oppression, neo-colonialism and imperialism.

The same fist has suddenly turned overnight to become a fist to crush the opposition, and, worse, a lot of our dreams. Indira Gandhi once said: “One cannot shake hands with a closed fist.” And she was right.

An open palm offered to another could be a gesture of friendship, an offer of greeting. But a raised open palm can mean something totally different.

You cannot shake hands with an open palm raised high in the air. The palm could be a whack descending on someone’s face.

Remember the violence we witnessed in the last two elections was not entirely coming from one party.

So here we are with a fist to bash opposition into submission or total silence, an open palm to counter the fist and a charging bull to destroy everything in its path. Sadly, all symbols of violence.

It is time we had positive symbols – symbols that will have a positive influence on the young electorate.

The biggest problem with revolutionary parties that brought us independence is their refusal to move with the times.

Most of them across Africa have chosen to remain in the past – singing about their sacrifices and victories over colonisation.

Take for example the ANC, Frelimo and Swapo. These have refused to change or pass on the baton. Any party that dreams taking over from them better be prepared for a big fight – a war!

“Zanu ndeye ropa, baba,” they still sing this song without shame. A song that says to us when it comes to push and shove we are prepared to use violence and shed blood. Perhaps this is the party’s interpretation of Malcolm X’s “by any means necessary.”

The use of violence to stay in power was best summarised by President Robert Mugabe himself in his “we’ve got degrees of violence” speech. It is unfortunate that the MDC has fallen into the same trap.

Please no more symbols and slogans that will teach us to prepare for violence. All we want is to prepare for a democratic, peaceful and fair election where we will vote for the candidate of our choice.

Raisedon Baya is a Bulawayobased playwright and cultural activist.

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