Of party regalia and politics of our time


In today’s world of terse communication, I feel obliged to start by apologizing that this is going to be long. And in its longevity, I am not going to mention names because it’s not some comprehensive truths.

The just-ended August 2023 harmonized elections saw political parties employing different tactics, dirty and clean, to convince the masses. But what stood out amongst all was the use of party regalia which becomes an internal image of a political party’s verbal promises.

In the run-up to every election, party regalia becomes an eyesore and the ruling party’s regalia dominates everywhere—in public transport and bars and bus terminuses—they are invincible! In rural areas, they go to the deep tanks, to growth points for shopping, to farms, to family functions—anywhere clad in party regalia while it takes courage for someone to put on the regalia of the opposition party. The election period becomes a soul-searching season where the masses search for answers which are not just there. It’s like getting drunk from the fragrance of some expensive liquor which one has and will never taste. 

In my opinion, walking around garbed in party regalia makes one a moving poster or a 21st-century robot which carries information everywhere, and I believe that politicians are fully aware of this. It seems to me that most supporters are of the view that wearing party regalia proves loyalty and confidence in their party. Politicians do not care about the quality of the regalia because, to them, a moving poster doesn’t need to be of high quality as long as it peddles the information. I am convinced that politicians use party regalia for the occupation of space.

And regalia from different political parties always have one striking thing in common, they are all embezzled with the party leader’s youthful face beaming with a smile. The regalia may differ in color and content but that toothy smile is always there. You look at his face and he smiles back at you in a green T-shirt and you think you have found the answers; you envisage a new life budding right in front of your staring eyes and instantly, you start dreaming of a yet-to-come golden time. And in his smile, in its deepest silence, he convinces you that he is a noble road that leads you to those answers. Liars!

In linguistics, we call it a multi-discourse approach—a single picture that conveys thousands of striking messages. This is where you see an octogenarian whose face has already developed thousands of wrinkles looking so youthful on a T-shirt or a cap. The young ones, don’t have much work to do, but he smiles back at you from a rare yellow T-shirt and you wonder if the picture was taken just a second after a warm bath on a cloudy day. Well, being youthful, healthy, hale and hearty, on a picture, tells thousands of stories, among them are virility, power and energy.

Unsuspecting supporters do not pay particular attention to this and they end up being moving posters carrying information they don’t even understand. The only difference between a poster stuck on a tree and one who wears a party regalia is that the former does not move around while the latter moves around, arguing and presenting a holier-than-thou attitude. There is a sense of invincibility from ruling party supporters garbed in their regalia. They feel like they could piss in everyone’s head without retaliation. A perfect example is of a rogue guy who pointed at his scarf, cap and T-shirt embezzled by the President’s face when a police officer tried to arrest him for public nuisance. The officer backed off, terrified.

I do not care which party regalia one wears, what boggles my mind is the immediate contradiction of the message engraved on the regalia and what the politician preaches at rallies. After distributing party regalia engraved with prosperous words, Unity, One People blah blah blah, you are shaken out of your wits when he stands up long to shout the ‘down with blah blah’ slogan.

These contradictions and double standards from politicians make me believe that apart from being highly polarized and good-for-nothing, the politics of our time strike an unbeatable level of ridiculousness and the supporters bear the brunt of it. Imagine after taking a T-shirt with loud promises during the run-up to the election which is silenced by reality just weeks after the elections, I mean how would one walk with a T-shirt written ‘Kujekesa Nyika Yese Nemagetsi’ while generators are running at every verandah. You suddenly become a moving poster pestering an already proven lie, and some live to confirm these lies the hard way.

I know of a supporter who bore the brunt of confirming these lies the hard way, he was unbeatable in any argument that condemned his party, particularly on the ever-deteriorating health system. He died in the general hospital from bleeding practically because there was no medicine in the hospital to save him. He had been hit by a bottle by some rogue drug addict at the bar. The nurses and doctors who helplessly gazed at him yearning for help while garbed in his party’s regalia must have wished him dead. They saw a man who had supported the very thing that plunged their very lives into a mess.

I have realized that the only time at which both a politician and a supporter seem to be in harmony, chasing the same goal, that rare-in-our-politics unity of purpose is during the distribution of hastily made regalia. And the stampede from folks is rather fascinating, all supporters want to grab theirs so mad that they don’t mind risking their lives in the stampede while the politician watches eagerly for each of them to get a T-shirt where his smiling face is engraved.

I have witnessed these numerous stampedes for party regalia and the experiences are tagging me for attention as I write. This one comes first, it’s about a verily respected man in the community who almost lost his life in the stampede for party regalia. He sustained a fractured heap and a life-threatening spine injury after falling into a 20-meter-deep abandoned well. He was fighting and pushing and kicking and jabbering to move everyone away to get complete regalia. What does this regalia mean that’s so important that people dare to risk their lives to get it?

Some use their wits to take party regalia to some hefty levels and, for me, the height of it was to see a Chief wearing a shoe engraved with a politician’s smiling face. The politician was stuck on his high-heeled boots as he walked up and down at the rally, in the CBD, and in his area of jurisdiction. Creativity? He looked confident in those boots; he was a moving elephant whose boot could step on anyone. He was a moving earth.

I have concluded that I will never put on party regalia. My daggers are not out for those who put on regalia in pretence due to fear.

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