Zimbabweans grow more fearful as they see Zanu PF rebound – Poll

JOHANNESBURG – Zimbabweans have grown more fearful of saying whom they would vote for, researchers said Friday, a sign the country's ruler of 30 years is rebounding after being forced to share power with his longtime rival two years ago.\r\n

President Robert Mugabe’s party lost the 2008 parliamentary elections, and he later entered into a unity government with longtime opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Zimbabweans still see Mugabe as firmly in control though, in large part because of his security forces, according to the results released Friday.

Eldred Masunungure, director of Zimbabwe’s Mass Public Opinion Institute, said recent questions about Mugabe’s health add a measure of uncertainty, but that even if the 87-year-old president were to die, his military-political machine would remain strong.

"The system is not going away if an individual dies," said Susan Booysen, a South African pollster who analyzed the survey results.

The survey conducted late last year by Freedom House and the Mass Public Opinion Institute shows 75 per cent of Zimbabweans believe Mugabe is solely or mainly in control, and 45 believe his ZANU-PF party has not ceded power.

As a measure of growing fear, the researchers found more Zimbabweans in 2010 compared to 2009 were unwilling to say for whom they would vote if elections were held tomorrow — 42 per cent, compared to 31 per cent.

A representative sample of 1,200 people were surveyed face-to-face in November and December, and the margin of error was 2.8 points.

Masunungure attributed Mugabe’s resurgence to missteps by Tsvangirai and to the money that has flowed to Mugabe’s supporters since the discovery of diamonds.

"The top leadership of the (Movement for Democratic Change) party was in government and that top leadership did not seem to realize the inclusive government is not a permanent arrangement," Masunungure said.

Mugabe has called for elections this year to bring an end his coalition with Tsvangirai.

A Mugabe rally drew 20,000 to Zimbabwe’s capital earlier this week, which Masunungure said was a mark of growing confidence of Mugabe and ZANU-PF. Witnesses said Mugabe militants went house-to-house and patrolled bus stops demanding support for the rally.