Elections are a key aspect in all communities and in Zimbabwe they are held after every 5 years. Election discourse is paramount in society and as elections are held, several persuasive elements and occasions come into play as contesting candidates try to garner votes. Election discourse is realised in the aspiring candidates’ speeches. Linguistic manipulation is an influential instrument in politics and as such presidential candidates’ electioneering discourse is infested with persuasive linguistic elements. Therefore, this study analysed the generic structure of hard news and editorials as well as political manifestos. The nature of linguistic devices invoked for the enactment of political goals and objectives by Zimbabwean newspaper reports in English and Shona were analysed. The study looked at how presidential candidates express themselves to the electorate through language as well. The study demonstrated how newspaper reporters make linguistic choices to express similar content from contending politicians during election time.
The study took a qualitative research methodology. Tools used to collect data were interviews and document analysis. Ten newspaper reporters were interviewed for their extensive knowledge of media situations. The newspaper articles which were based on political manifestos by two of the contending political parties, the MDC and ZANU PF were analysed. Systemic Functional Linguistics and Critical Discourse Analysis were used as theories of analysis.
Findings from the study revealed the existence of certain linguistic devices that are used in the art of persuasion, as candidates campaign for political posts. Characteristic linguistic devices were observed in journalists’ reports. These devices include modals, verbs, pronouns, metaphors, repetition, anaphora as well as the use of “us and them” in both the speeches and news reports in English and Shona. The analysis showed a discrepancy between state and independent media as far as news representation of election events is concerned. It is recommended in this study that, there must be a balance in the presentation of politics in newspapers even if there is personal bias in linguistic choice on the part of individual journalists. A transition model into electioneering reporting came up. The proposed model looks into issues of cohesion in news reports. The study has contributed further insights into the nature, features and functions of political discourse.