WHEN people share jokes, these are often unguarded moments in which they unconsciously express their deepest thoughts and feelings, sometimes against their better judgment. It is against this backdrop that the jest by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to unleash the army on Kuwadzana residents on Friday last week should it be established they are behind the current dry spell in the country, should be treated with the seriousness it deserves.
His chosen metaphor — soldiers — carries serious connotations in a country where the military has been used to crush popular public protests against government. It is either this was a slip of the tongue or a veiled message being sent to members of the public should they ever entertain the thought of protesting against Mnangagwa’s government again. On the other end — in the instance that it was an innocent reference — it means the President still has a lot to learn when it comes to diplomatic etiquette.
No amount of public relations will ever make the public believe that this was an example picked up just from the blues, and his refusal to publicly apologise implies that ED meant what he said.
The metaphor of soldiers in Zimbabwe invokes mental images of brutality and violence, and when used by the President as a veiled threat in hilarious fashion, it creates the impression that violence and brutality is always a failsafe plan for them. And given the culture and history of State-sponsored political violence in post-independent Zimbabwe, this is sad.
The use of such language and jokes should have no place in what should be a contemporary democracy because of the serious connotations it carries. It is our hope that the President — even if he is not going to apologise for this particular incident — will take heed and refrain from using such language in future.
The language of violence can only perpetuate a culture and legacy of violence, which is something that Zimbabwe should be gravitating away from.