Zimbabwean politicians’ eerie obsession with titles

7 Min Read

November 4, 2011 By NqabaM

A fortnight ago I felt my blood curdle when I read in the papers that politicians from one of Zimbabwe’s main parties, the MDC-T, wanted their names prefixed with the term “leader” when being addressed. Instead of the age old Mr, Mrs, Dr, Professor etc, the leaders of that party would be addressed as leader so and so and I thought utter bollocks. The justification for the use of the new term made things even worse, the party said they wanted to inculcate a sense of leadership. But the very fact that we voted them into positions means that we already appreciate them as leaders. What made matters worse is that the party claimed that since Zanu PF, their coalition partners in government, were already referring to themselves as “comrade”, the MDC-T also had to come up with a term to differentiate themselves from the other party. Comrade is a soviet era term that means friend and therefore is more egalitarian, whereas for me “leader” sounds more condescending and arrogant. This got me to conclude that Zimbabwean politicians have an eerie fetish and obsession with high sounding titles and will go the full distance just to have their long salutations just before their names are announced. The country’s Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, has somehow sneaked in the term “The Right Honourable” in front of his name. Never mind that such a title does not exist, the MDC-T leader is more than willing to brandish it about willy-nilly and for everyone that cares to listen. I can already picture him smiling each time they say the “Right Honourable Prime Minister” and I wonder if in his mind he says to himself silently “I have arrived”. While MDC-T supporters may think this is a rant at their party, Zanu PF is also notorious for coming up with outlandish titles as they seek to heap their praise on party leader and president, Robert Mugabe. Each time, ahead of the television and radio news, we are reminded that Mugabe, is the president, “Head of State and Government and Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence forces” and I really wonder if that is necessary. I believe calling him just “president” would suffice and would take nothing away from his other lofty positions. To add insult to injury, at one time fawning Zanu PF politicians mooted an idea to have Mugabe’s name prefixed with the term “Supreme Leader”. Then there are women from both parties, MDC-T and Zanu PF, who walked out of a meeting because the moderator did not refer to them as “Honourable” before pronouncing that they were members of parliament. The meeting was meant to discuss women empowerment, a noble topic in a largely patriarchal country, but it had to be aborted since these women leaders felt insulted. Maybe to our leaders these high sounding titles mean so much to them, but if only these titles could be matched with delivery. While it is no secret that Zimbabwe has improved since 2008, the country remains stuck on many social and economic issues and yet our elected officials only congregate to see how they will award themselves with more titles and salutations. Instead of our politicians coming together to decide what to do for the country, us the poor voters, they seem more interested in coming up with titles in an immortal game of outwitting each other in creating the most unconventional titles ever in this world. Attending a political rally is one nightmare as this is the time these people go all out to flaunt their meaningless titles. All political parties have something they call protocol, which they MUST observe. In a nutshell this is where they greet and salute all the dignitaries and elected officials in attendance. This part usually consists of half the speech as we, the audience, are subjected to endless praise singing and bootlicking. At the last political rally I attended, an MDC-T one, the master of ceremony even went out of his way to tell us about Tsvangirai’s honourary degrees from Havard and that he was now a Doctor of something. I wondered if this was important as the same thing that has been recited for the past two years. Maybe I am too idealistic, but each time I watch politicians from other countries, particularly the West, you never hear all these unnecessary protocols and titles. They just get into the subject matter without wasting time. In defence of politicians, one may argue that Zimbabwe has not got to the extent of Bingu Wa Mutharika in Malawi, Zaire’s Mobutu Seseko nor Idi Amin of Uganda. Mutharika calls himself Ngwazi, meaning the conqueror, while Mobuto said he was the all powerful ruler of everything on land and sea. While the enigmatic Amin had a very long title, with one of the terms being “His Excellence President for Life”.

Zimbabwe has not got to this extent, but at the rate we are going I can safely say, our politicians will come up with more eccentric titles that will belittle the titles of these erstwhile leaders.

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