Hiding behind name-calling

HARARE - With a crucial election expected next year, the season of name-calling among our politicians is well and truly upon us.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai recently branded the leader of the breakaway MDC faction, Welshman Ncube, a “village politician.”

This description implies Ncube is unfit to be a national leader, with connotations of only mobilising ethnicity.

This, of course, is only an allegation. A fortnight ago, I suggested that, besides accusations of undemocratic behaviour and violence against Tsvangirai’s MDC, tribal politics of recognition stood in the way of the reunification of the MDC.

If Ncube re-joins the mainstream MDC, he will perpetuate the marginalisation of a significant group that now feels it deserves greater political recognition in the form of national leadership.

A statement by Ncube recently saying some people have a “genetic predisposition for hatred of a group of people” confirmed this analysis.

In his words, “There are some people who have an inherent hatred for a particular group of people. They cannot see that we are everywhere. When they look at Ncube they do not see a Zimbabwean, but a Matabele.”
So the real obstacle to reunification is that Ncube would rather remain with his faction to fight for political recognition.

According to Ncube, some people do not believe a Ndebele should “aspire for national office,” hence the label of a “village politician.”

However, Ncube is not innocent of name-calling either, he has also branded Tsvangirai a “Tea boy,” an epithet that Zanu PF has routinely used to denigrate the MDC leader.

This epithet obviously refers to Tsvangirai’s modest academic background.

Name-calling in general is, therefore, designed to assert superiority.

Tsvangirai claims to embody the superior attributes of a national leader compared to Ncube’s sectarian interests.

On the other hand, Ncube suggests his academic credentials make him a better leader compared to Tsvangirai.

These are all unsubstantiated claims. No substantive evidence suggests that Ncube is harnessing ethnic identity for political capital.

Neither has anyone provided empirical evidence to suggest that politicians of lesser academic qualifications make bad leaders.

Idi Amin may have exhibited the predations of an uneducated ruler. But Mugabe, despite a string of degrees to his name, is no shining example of the positive effect of academic superiority either.

John Major was no worse than other prime ministers in the UK despite his lower academic standing.

So a “Tea boy” may turn out to be a good leader if he surrounds himself with a team of astute advisors.
What name-calling only reflects is fear of your opponent.

As one blogger Robert Taylor asserted: “The need to label typically emerges from our own insecurity, despair about our situation or a perceived threat from another.”

Tsvangirai, the “Tea boy”, is a serious threat to a desperate Mugabe, and to the former, Ncube, “the village politician” is a threat in Matebeleland.

These labels arise because of these insecurities.

However, name-calling does not enhance your argument. Other than reflect one’s insecurities, it also displays a lack of political maturity.

Politicians campaigning for the next election must concentrate on factors which influence voter perceptions.

Political insult is not one of those factors in a nation so desperate for salvation.

Will people in Murambinda vote for you because you called Ncube a “village politician” or you have articulated a cogent plan to improve their livelihoods?

Does a gathering in Gwanda want to be told Tsvangirai is a “Tea boy” or the speaker has pledged to build a clinic in their area when his party is in power?

Puerile name-calling may draw derisive laughter but the politics of rabble-rousing does not make for meaningful discourse.

Significantly, respect for each other begins at the top. Political leaders who denigrate each other cannot expect grassroot supporters to respect each other.

Violent behaviour does not emanate from direct exhortations only; sentiments of hostility can be nurtured over time from indirect statements implying superiority over the other.

In a divided society like ours, politicians ought to take the lead by recognising that they are not enemies but competitors in presenting the best ideas. - Conrad Nyamutata

Comments (1)

Spot On and well thought out. If only the POVO could stop encouraging the silly politicians by laughing as if in agreement.

Sobber Mind - 25 December 2012

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