Now they are on top!

Much has been written about the recent Freedom House/ Mass Public Opinion Institute opinion poll survey which has shown that ZANU PF (ZPF) is now, arguably, the most popular party in Zimbabwe; that Robert Mugabe will easily win the next election against Morgan Tsvangirai. The survey shows that Mugabe has a 12 point lead on Tsvangirai. The caveat is that 40% of the respondents to the survey refused to reveal their voting intentions.

It is not clear whether those polled are registered voters or what impact the fear of political violence has had on the results. There are people on both sides of the debate who have dissected and analysed the results of this survey as well as the implications of this survey on the Zimbabwean body politic so I will not go down this well trodden path. I want to focus on the impact these results could have on the philosophy, policies and actions of ZPF. I present here a very hypothetical scenario!

ZPF has used coercion and violence since the 1985 elections. On the explicit instructions of the then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe people were ‘evicted’ from their homes in Glen View, Glen Norah, Highfields and other high density suburbs because they were suspected of being supporters of Nkomo and Muzorewa. Violence and intimidation have been ZPF’s modus operandi and has progressively become worse as their fortunes waned.

Those who have had the misfortune of being the target of ZPF thugs will know that they were prepared to do anything to shore up their party’s fortune. Many civil servants in rural areas were forced to buy ZPF cards, attend ZPF rallies and to contribute financially to the upkeep of the party in order to be safe. Refusing to do so was a death wish.

At one point the MDC even encouraged its members to buy ZPF cards as an insurance policy against violence. Now that they have a double digit lead in the opinion polls the time has come for ZPF to renounce violence; to disown Chipangano, rogue war veterans and other merchants of death. ZPF has used the intelligence, defence and security personnel from the CIO, the ZRP and the ZDF to terrorise people in cities and villages into voting for them.

Now they are on top! They are, arguably, the most popular party in Zimbabwe so we expect them to build on this momentum without resorting to violence. If ZPF believes the results of this survey and if they believe that their ‘star’ is rising once again then they will stop intimidating people into supporting them.

If Mugabe is sure to win then there is no need for violence. We can now look forward to the party not trying to stay in power through manipulating the Constitution making process or deploying violent thugs to beat people into submission. We can now look forward to elections where soldiers stay in the barracks; where the police are defenders of people rights rather than violators of human rights.

This survey gives ZPF an opportunity to redeem itself by fighting elections on the basis of ideas rather than fists, knobkerries and machetes. As the most popular party in the country they know that the majority of the people support them so they just need to consolidate this support without burning people’s homes.

Maybe the silver lining to these results is that maybe Zimbabwe can be healed from the violence that has blighted our nation for more than ten years. The results of this survey give us a chance to have a peaceful general election. When the MDC was the top party in Zimbabwe they didn’t need to force people to attend their rallies.

People attended even at great personal risk because they supported the party. ZPF, having made a spectacular rise to the top of the rankings, will no longer need to round up people to attend their rallies; they will no longer need to force teachers and school children to attend their rallies. People will come because they genuinely support the party. But it all depends on ZPF.

Their actions will tell us whether the results of this survey are to be believed. If violence and intimidation of political opponents continues then Zimbabweans will make their minds as to whether to believe the results of Freedom House/ Mass Public Opinion Institute opinion poll. We live in hope.

Post published in: Analysis

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