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Social media hashtags have a short shelf life

Sapien Sapien

The electoral season in Zimbabwe is upon us. Political mollycoddling, accompanied by bootlicking around prominent political characters is now dominating the public discourse as the electoral clock ticks towards what surely is going to be a career-shattering electoral defeat for any of the main protagonists as Zimbabwe trudges towards the 2023 harmonised election.

Social media razzmatazz has been coalescing around trendy hashtags pronouncing intent with the latest one, #NgaapindeHakeMukomana or simply NHM dominating the social media space the past week.

An analysis of the role played by slogans insofar as political strategy is concerned is of significant importance if ever this analysis is to be relevant to the current cacophony of noises on the political front in Zimbabwe.

As noted by Hodges (2014), the functional scope behind political slogans is to ensure that they are designed in such a way that they are extremely witty, catchy and highly quotable whilst amplifying the broader campaign message. There has to be a message. It is one thing crafting a catchy slogan and the other having a slogan oscillating around the name of a person or character such #EDpfee or #MukomanaNgaapindeHake.

Political slogans, in their scope and design, ought to be in a position to offer taglines that are easily communicable to the broader campaign message. Significantly, it is neither rude nor offensive to highlight that the strengths of slogans reside not only in their intrinsic aesthetic value but specifically upon intertextual resonance with related historical usage and campaigns central to the message itself. What is certain in Zimbabwe is that as we move towards the elections, more campaign slogans are going to sprout whilst the presently trending monikers are either going to be obliterated due to lack of significance and symbiotic relationships with the broader campaign strategy or are going to be around once refined into the broader meaning and objective of the campaign strategy.

A good analogy and case study for analysis as to the efficacy of conceiving a coherent campaign slogan can be seen in the 2008 New Hampshire primary election campaign speech by candidate Barack Obama that literally spiralled it to the top of the charts and ultimately global stardom.

In a widely quoted and referenced speech, Obama used the “Yes We Can” slogan with relative proficiency, linking it to numerous historical contexts of struggle, justice and broader human rights agenda as he linked each successive paragraph with the slogan. So good was the presentation that his audience simply echoed, “Yes We Can” after each and every paragraph. Besides connecting with the audience, the speech and the slogan itself fed into the broader campaign message which was woven around “The Change we Want” paradigm.

As such, at this juncture in Zimbabwe, besides giving prominence to available political gladiators, the monikers which are being taken as slogans got virtually nothing to do with political strategy. My favourite McKinsey 7S Framework can be applied effectively to prove that besides obvious yada, empty promises, petty grandstanding and toxic hatred, political players within the country got no strategy; they do not have competent structures, especially within the opposition ranks whilst it is evident that no shared values exist whatsoever with the masses.

A good point to note is the indication that one of the hashtags, the #NgaapindeHakeMukomana hashtag emanated from within the ranks of the security establishment. The message being amplified there is to the effect that disgruntled members of the security forces, citing hostile hygiene and motivational factors, are alleged to be learning towards Chamisa as their preferred alternative. The veracity of this insinuation can only be given maximum traction by those with superior evidence but the import, at a broader level, being to the essence that the militarisation of politics in Zimbabwe has been received well by the opposition. Moving away from the hashtags and focusing more on the alleged, at this point in time, “social media” endorsement of Chamisa under the NHM moniker, the emerging discourse being propagated at least on social media, is to the effect that alleged junior officers are now disillusioned with the status quo and are looking at Chamisa as an alternative. This feeds into the broader Restore Legacy theme where we had opposition characters dancing, some “erotically” with troops on the ground, taking selfies with them whilst celebrating the success of the military operation that led to the resignation of the late President Robert Mugabe.

Are we saying the relationship between those who celebrated in November 2017 and those alleged to be behind the trending hashtag is getting stronger by the day or are we witnessing an amalgamation of interests between the opposition and elements within the security forces? One thing is certain; the security forces, as the vanguards of the revolution, have got a role to play in national politics. The other one is clear; political players in Zimbabwe widely recognise the role of the security forces insofar as the national discourse is concerned. What is “murky”, at least at this point in time, is the staying power of the available hashtags being thrown around as political slogans as the nation moves towards elections set for 2023.

Sapien is a security and trade analyst.

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