Freedom House report: MDC-T must shape up or get lost

I have for a long time been firmly persuaded that opinion polls of a political nature are invariably ensconced in particular contexts.

They don’t happen in a vacuum but are supposed to realise a certain objective. The objective in this particular regard is what an individual or institution ultimately wants to achieve by testing its hypothesis. It becomes the context in which the research is carried out – determining the terms of reference, methodology and activities and, therefore, the findings.

It is in this light that I have chosen to regard the recent opinion survey commissioned by Freedom House and conducted by the Mass Public Opinion Institute concerning how MDC-T and Zanu (PF) are perceived by the electorate.

Basically, two findings immediately caught my eye when I read the report, results of which, I see, have seized the majority of the people who also read it or read about it.

These are: a) Zanu (PF)’s and President Robert Mugabe’s support base in 2012 is on the increase, b) support for the MDC-T has gone down. The conclusion, of course, is that Zanu (PF) and President Robert Mugabe would win presidential and general elections if they were held immediately.

To a large extent, people seem to have limited their attention to these findings, hardly probing the context in which they have been made.

David Kramer, the Freedom House President, states the obvious when he says:

“These findings should serve as bellwether for what citizens are expecting of their future political leaders and how both political parties can define their policies to adequately address these expectations.”

However, for me, what is important are the statements coming from the findings, not the results taken in isolation. In other words, Freedom House, in cahoots with Mass Public Opinion, through the survey, set out to make particular statements that naturally reflect the current political thinking of the western world.

The first conclusion that I draw from the findings is that the western world, particularly the US—but maybe also the EU bloc—is disillusioned with MDC-T. It is not happy with the fact that the party that gave so much hope from the start of the century has performed below par and seems to have cozied up to the Zanu (PF) way of doing business.

I am of the opinion that the west is saying to the MDC-T: “You have failed to live up to the expectations of the Zimbabwean people and the international community that so much hoped that you would bring democracy and sanity to Zimbabwe”.

But I also hear these words: “You (MDC-T) need to wake up. You are taking too many things for granted and seem to have become too comfortable especially after the formation of the Government of National Unity”.

I agree that Morgan Tsvangirai has to some extent lost the steam that used to be his trademark. I get extremely annoyed when he comes out in the public praising Mugabe, as though people like George Charamba and Rugare Gumbo have been fired. Like many, I am sure that he now finds the comfort of Munhumutapa too sweet to give up.

Second, the west seems to be telling MDC-T that it is ready to scale down or even rescind its moral support for the party. Because the opinion poll is of a political nature, Freedom House could afford the luxury of withdrawing or suppressing the results if it cared about the implications that they would have.

As it is, the survey has had a psychological impact not only on voters, but Sadc and the international community as well, with tragic consequences for the MDC-T. By releasing the report into the fray, the west, as represented by Freedom House, is making the bold statement that MDC-T may just as well go to hell.

Thirdly, and even more worrying, is that Freedom House seems to be implying that it could embrace Mugabe and his party if that suits western whims.

I don’t quarrel with the finding that MDC-T support is going down. But I get confused when the researchers say Zanu (PF) support has increased – because that simply cannot be true. Looking around, there is absolutely nothing that the party has done since the last poll that would shift people’s thinking.

While the research might have genuinely come up with that result, there is a possibility that the sampling might have been done cleverly enough to bring out that result. As the Zimbabwe Vigil points out: “It is difficult to take seriously a poll of only 1,198 Zimbabweans – about 0.01% of the population – especially when 47% of them said they would not vote or say who they would vote for. So it boiled down to about 370 people who said they’d vote for Mugabe against 210 for Tsvangirai.”

In a nutshell, the international community, particularly the west, is changing its attitude towards Zimbabwean politics, particularly the way in which it views the MDC-T. The title of the report, “Change and ‘New’ Politics in Zimbabwe”, says it all.

The writing is on the wall for MDC-T—shape up or get lost. *For feedback, please write to [email protected]

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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