Farirai Machivenyika Herald Reporter
THE latest Afrobarometer survey findings that President Mugabe’s support is surging at a time trust for the blundering opposition is plummeting is consistent with the outcome of the 2013 harmonised elections, and developments thereafter that saw President Mugabe’s political trajectory rising regionally and continentally, analysts have said.
Afrobarometer, the Ghana-based political think tank also released a similar survey, after commissioning the Mass Public Opinion Institute, ahead of the harmonised elections that foretold victory for Zanu-PF and disaster for the MDCs. And it came to pass with Zanu-PF scoring a landslide bigger than the inaugural 1980 poll victory.
President Mugabe romped to victory with 61,09 percent of the vote to MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai’s 33,94 percent with Zanu-PF clinching 160 seats out of the 210 National Assembly constituencies to score a crushing 76 percent dominance.
After factoring in 60 women’s quota seats elected by proportional representation of six for each of the 10 provinces, the final composition of the National Assembly came to 197 seats for Zanu-PF, 70 for MDC-T, two for MDC, and one independent giving Zanu-PF just under 73 percent of the total seats in the National Assembly but well over the two-thirds majority of 180 seats.
Zanu-PF completed its rout of the MDC-T by sweeping 1 493 out of 1 958 wards in the local authority elections, translating to over 76 percent dominance in local government countrywide.
In a recent survey titled “Public Perceptions on Corruption” published on Tuesday, Afrobarometer said at least 63 percent of Zimbabweans surveyed trust President Mugabe.
It also said 70 percent of the rural populace trusts the President while in urban centres he had made major inroads with 45 percent of the population also indicating their support for the President.
Just before the 2013 harmonised elections another survey by Afrobarometer predicted a Zanu-PF victory at the polls.
The survey also showed that MDC-T popularity had dropped drastically from 57 percent in 2008 to 31 percent in 2012 while Zanu-PF’s had grown from 10 percent to 31 percent in the same period.
President Mugabe and Zanu-PF romped to an emphatic victory in the harmonised polls with the ruling party getting well over two-thirds majority in Parliament.
Political analysts yesterday said the results of the survey put to rest misplaced calls by the MDC-T for President Mugabe to resign on unfounded allegations of failure.
“The indication that President Mugabe is still popular and has the trust of the people tallies well with the outcome of the July 31, 2013 elections. It also explains why the fortunes of the MDC-T and opposition politics are going down.
“The results also explain why President Mugabe has been unanimously elected to chair both Sadc and the AU at the same time because the continent has confidence and faith in the ideals that he stands for,” said Mr Alexander Rusero, a journalism and media studies lecturer at the Harare Polytechnic.
Soon after romping to victory in the harmonised elections on July 31, President Mugabe was elected deputy chairperson Sadc in August 2013, deputy chairperson of the African Union in January 2014, Sadc chairperson in August 2014 and AU chairman in January this year.
He is the incumbent Sadc and AU chairman.
Mr Rusero said the MDC-T calls for President Mugabe to resign had failed to find any takers because the majority do not have faith in the opposition as a political alternative.
“The calls by the MDC-T for President Mugabe to step down are hollow because the people know that the MDC-T was also in Government and they have nothing to show for it except the extravagance their leader (Morgan Tsvangirai) exhibited during the tenure of the inclusive Government,” he added.
Writing on his blog in an article titled, “Afrobarometer’s grim news for Zimbabwe’s opposition”, former political advisor to the then Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Dr Alex Magaisa, said the survey was done by reputable institutions with credible results.
“Since this survey was done by respected and reputable research organisations, naturally, it commands attention and respect. And lest we forget, the last time these two (Afrobarometer and Mass Public Opinion Institute) carried out a similar survey, back in 2012, they were dismissed in some quarters, especially in the opposition, but this attitude was not helpful. The outcome of their survey seemed to back the outcome of July 13 (read July 31). Either they were closer to the truth or they were part of a grand conspiracy, though I think the latter suggestion would be churlish.
“Like all surveys, there are bound to be weaknesses, but I would rather say people, especially in the opposition, use these survey results to understand the terrain in which they are operating and therefore, to map out strategies to deal with the challenges,” Dr Magaisa said.
He added that the survey also showed that President Mugabe had maintained his support despite challenges in the economy.
“An interesting feature that will please President Mugabe’s supporters is that the overall result in terms of trust backs his rule and is also consistent with the outcome of the 2013 election. This result suggests that he has maintained his support, notwithstanding the negatives that have gone on since then.
“But this statistic also has implications for succession-planning and the succession race. It will disappoint presidential aspirants in Zanu-PF who might have been hoping to succeed him at the next election in 2018, because this survey result will be used as confirmation that President Mugabe is still popular and remains the right man for the job. It backs those arguing that there is no vacancy at State House, now or in the foreseeable future, which means by resignation, incapacitation or death, Zimbabwe is likely to be with President Mugabe for a very long time to come. It means the aspirants will have to wait longer,” Dr Magaisa added.
Harare-based political analyst Mr Goodwine Mureriwa said the Afrobarometer results could also offer Western governments a way out of supporting the MDC-T given its well-documented consecutive losses to Zanu-PF at the polls.
“The Western sponsors of the MDC-T are eating humble pie and are beginning to accept the reality of Zimbabwe politics that Zanu-PF is the ruling party with its leader President Mugabe.
“They are shying away from the MDC-T and they have realised that the results of July 31 showed that the MDC-T is in political oblivion. That is why they have cut funding to the MDC-T and other NGOs that supported the regime change agenda,” Mr Mureriwa.
He added that the results of the survey also indicated the Western countries’ desire to restore normal relations with the Zimbabwe Government and the ruling party Zanu-PF.
“The West realises that they lose much if they become hostile to the ruling party and its President. They also want to tap into our vast resources and the outcome of the survey may give them justification to abandon Tsvangirai,” he added.
Mr Mureriwa said President Mugabe embodied pan-African values that were espoused by the continent’s founding fathers.
“The survey also shows that the MDC-T is losing support even in its perceived strongholds. The party is now in a Catch-22 situation because they are being abandoned by their funders and they are losing support even in the urban areas, their traditional strongholds,” Mr Mureriwa said.
A senior lecturer at the Chinhoyi University of Technology who declined to be named for professional reasons, said while the survey was an indication of what Zimbabweans knew, it also showed that they were cognisant of the real reasons behind the economic hardships in the country.
“I think the survey shows what many Zimbabweans and other people who have intimate knowledge of Zimbabwe know. President Mugabe and Zanu-PF’s popularity has been growing since 2008 while the MDC-T’s has been waning. The party failed dismally to push any of the policies they promised the electorate.
“The other issue why no one has taken the calls by the MDC-T for President Mugabe to resign is because Zimbabweans now fully understand the genesis of their problems, which are the illegal sanctions that were imposed by the West,” the academic said.
He added that the sanctions had caused untold suffering on the lives of many Zimbabweans, while the MDC-T was ambivalent in calls for their removal.