Shades of the GNU in Zimbabwe (2009 – 13): Linguistic Discourse Analyses of Representations of Transitional Politics in Zimbabwean Newspapers

Shades of the GNU in Zimbabwe (2009 – 13): Linguistic Discourse Analyses of Representations of Transitional Politics in Zimbabwean Newspapers

Collen Sabao (Stellenbosch University, South Africa & Midlands State University, Zimbabwe)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0081-0.ch017
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Abstract

The chapter seeks to make a comparative analysis of the representations of Zimbabwe's GNU in Zimbabwean newspapers – The Herald and NewsDay with regards to two main issues of contention – the Zimbabwe Sanctions Debate and the constitution making process. It is important to note that Zimbabwe at the time of the GNU was under European Union (EU) and United States of America imposed ‘sanctions' and the sanctions debate constituted one of the most contentious issues with regards to the relations between the parties to the GNU. As such, it examines the discourse linguistic question of ‘objectivity' (or ‘neutrality') in ‘hard' news reports on the matter in these newspapers and from an Appraisal linguistic theoretic perspective. It compares the textuality of purposively sampled ‘hard' news reports in The Herald and NewsDay that evince the political relations between the parties to the GNU and the functionalities of the GNU in general during the period between September 2009 and June 2013.
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Transitional Politics In Zimbabwe: An Overview

The prospects of a negotiated political settlement as a solution to Zimbabwe’s volatile electoral and political wars of the 21st century, while showing signs as early as the early 2000s only came to being in 2008. As a form of transitional political settlement, after heavy contestations over the 2008 Presidential elections, a power sharing transitional government was negotiated in Zimbabwe. The mandate of the transitional government was largely to oversee the crafting of a new constitution and pave way for the holding of a fresh round of elections. The Declaration of Commitment signed by the parties to the Zimbabwe Global Political Agreement signed on 15 September 2008, and which established a Government of National Unity (GNU) in Zimbabwe reads in part as follows:

The parties hereby agree to work together to create a genuine, viable, permanent, sustainable and nationally accepted solution to the Zimbabwean situation, and in particular to implement the…agreement with the aims of resolving once and for all the current political and economic situations and charting a new political direction for the country. (The Global Political Agreement, pp3).

Despite the seemingly sincere constructive intents spelt out in the above quote summating the agreement the parties entered into, the tenure of the GNU in Zimbabwe was characterised by serious discord epitomised largely by political ideological differences. The fragmented nature of the pre-GNU era continued to manifest itself in the operationalisation of the GNU. Dissent, frustration and agitation bedevilled several processes encapsulated within the GNUs mandate. The most notable discords are recorded within the constitution making process, the sanctions debate and the holding of elections. The day to day operationalisation of the GNU was, thus, not without its own contentions and ‘dramas’.

The chapter seeks to make a comparative analysis of the representations of Zimbabwe’s GNU in Zimbabwean newspapers – The Herald and NewsDay with regards to two main issues of contention – the Zimbabwe Sanctions Debate and the constitution making process. In Zimbabwe, The Herald is a government-owned and controlled newspaper whereas the NewsDay is a privately-owned newspaper. It is important to note that Zimbabwe at the time of the GNU was under European Union (EU) and United States of America imposed ‘sanctions’ and the sanctions debate constituted one of the most contentious issues with regards to the relations between the parties to the GNU. As such, it examines the discourse linguistic question of ‘objectivity’ (or ‘neutrality’) in ‘hard’ news reports on the matter in these newspapers and from an Appraisal linguistic theoretic perspective. It compares the textuality of purposively sampled ‘hard’ news reports in The Herald and NewsDay that evince the political relations between the parties to the GNU and the functionalities of the GNU in general during the period between September 2009 and June 2013. This investigation of Zimbabwean printed media focuses largely on the proliferation (or lack of it thereof) of authorial ideological bias in ‘hard’ news reports in Zimbabwean news reporting cultures comparatively. This research period represents an interesting epoch in the country’s political and economic landscapes. Politically, the period was characterized by a GNU – a power-sharing government between Zimbabwe’s three major political parties – the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) – led by the incumbent president Robert Gabriel Mugabe and the two formation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) that is, MDC-T (the formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai, regarded as the biggest political challenge to Mugabe since the attainment of independence in 1980) and MDC-N (the breakaway formation once led by Professor Arthur Mutambara and now led by Professor Welshman Ncube). The two factions of MDC are identified by the first letters of the surnames of their leaders. MDC-T is thus the faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC-N is the faction led by Professor Welshman Ncube. MDC-N was formerly known as MDC-M when it was still being led by Professor Arthur Mutambara. The political settlement, as argued above, was a culmination of negotiations after the heavily disputed 2008 presidential elections.

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