THE Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC has questioned the veracity of the findings of Mass Public Opinion Institute’s survey which claims the party has lost much ground to its arch-rival Zanu PF in the run-up to general elections due next year.
Report by Herbert Moyo
In its official response to the recent survey, the MDC-T questioned the methodology and environment under which the survey was conducted saying “although professional people carried out this research, the conditions under which the research was conducted are not conducive for Zimbabweans to freely express their political preferences”.
The MDC-T said: “The report is allegedly based on the sample of 1 198 drawn from rural and urban areas with the majority being from rural areas. Regrettably, the report does not distinguish between people in communal lands and people who were settled on commercial farms.”
Surveys in Zimbabwe related to electoral issues and released ahead of elections became suspicious after the Zimbabwe Independent discovered in 2008 that in the past the Central Intelligence Organisation authored and gave researchers documents pointing to a Zanu PF victory in order to give legitimacy to rigged outcomes.
Previously, University of Zimbabwe lecturer Joseph Kurebwa always conducted researches predicting Zanu PF victories to counter the pro-MDC findings by Freedom House surveys which the state media now describes as a “US-based non-governmental organisation”.
The Freedom House survey claims Zanu PF has suddenly become popular on the strength of “clearly enunciated policies of land reform, indigenisation and preventing foreign interference in Zimbabwe”.
“The survey results clearly show Zanu PF has crafted for itself a number of effective election and party choice platforms,” reads the survey.
In 2000, Zanu PF came close to losing elections to then nine-month old MDC party largely as a result of disastrous policies like land reform.
It is widely believed Tsvangirai defeated President Robert Mugabe in 2002, but the result of the election, run by the military, was stolen.
Even the 2005 elections were marred by violence before Zanu PF embarked on a brutal campaign of demolishing homes and businesses of poor urban dwellers, dubbed “Operation Murambatsvina”, widely viewed as a pre-emptive strike against a restive population it feared would riot.
Zanu PF went on to lose the 2008 parliamentary and first round of presidential elections which it had fought on the platform of the same policies of land and indigenisation under the slogan “100% Empowerment, Total Independence”.
Political analyst and public administration lecturer at the Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa, Ricky Mukonza, questioned the methodology, saying the issues of land reform on which Zanu PF’s new-found popularity is predicated on issues which appeal more to rural rather than urban dwellers.
“I do not see how urban dwellers would suddenly support Zanu PF because of issues of the land reform which are primarily concerns for rural dwellers,” said Mukonza. “It depends on who you ask.”
University of Kent law lecturer Alex Magaisa said there was need to go outside the “narrow focus on the results and interpretations and question the agenda behind this survey”.
“There is always an agenda in every survey,” said Magaisa. “It could well be to chide the MDC and remind it of the things that it must do because after three years in government, some might be falling asleep on the wheel. So you present research that says wake up or you’ll lose ground. It has more impact because it is packaged as a formal representation.”
Commentator Blessing Vava described the Mass Public Opinion Institute as a credible body which has been doing surveys in the past and said it is “so shocking that the MDC is dismissing the results whereas in the past they embraced results of surveys that said Tsvangirai was going to win the elections”.