Survey shows Zimbabweans fear violence flare-up in next year’s poll
AN OPINION poll conducted by Afrobarometer shows fears of political violence breaking out during elections next year persist among Zimbabwean voters, as the country’s political leaders forge ahead with plans to hold the elections that will end the three-year-old unity government.
The Afrobarometer report, titled Voting Intentions in Zimbabwe: A Margin of Terror? notes that "Zimbabweans remain deeply concerned about political violence".
Fully 88% think that multiparty competition "often" or "always" leads to violent conflict. … 63% of Zimbabweans say that during an election campaign they personally fear becoming a victim of political intimidation and violence".
The percentage of voters afraid of political violence, according to the report, had increased from 80% in 2009 to 88%.
The findings by Afrobarometer, which surveyed nearly 3,000 voters has now been used by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai to counter a damning report released last month by Freedom House, entitled Change and New politics in Zimbabwe.
"The document from Afrobarometer seems to confirm our position on the questionable reliability of the Freedom House report," MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said at the weekend.
But Jonathan Moyo, a Zanu (PF) Politburo member, warned the MDC not to get "carried away" with the latest report.
"The Freedom House statement confirmed that Zanu (PF) has more popular and sustainable support on the ground — especially in between and beyond elections when policies matter the most than the MDC which in the past comes alive during elections to capitalise on the political discontent of the moment only to become clueless and utterly redundant after and beyond elections".
Political observers indicated that the Afrobarometer report highlights the "tight contest" that could characterise the next election and could culminate into a repeat of the June 2008 presidential election rerun. President Robert Mugabe has faced off against Mr Tsvangirai in successive presidential elections held in 2002 and 2008, with the outcome bitterly contested.
"The results of the report show a close call" between Zanu (PF) and the MDC under the prevailing circumstances and we are likely to go for another election which will end in a rerun," Trevor Maisiri, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, said. "This close call between both political parties also increases the stakes and means we will see desperate and resolute measures being applied by both parties to win in the next election."
More state-sanctioned violence cannot be dismissed, he said. The next election would be a high-level political showdown "which given Zimbabwe’s history is a recipe for violence and undue means will be used to win in the election".
Underpinning Zanu (PF)’s comeback onto the political stage, the Afrobarometer report linked this to efforts by the former ruling party to "invest resources" in preparation for the elections, while the MDC was basking in the marginal success of stabilising the economy that it had scored in the unity government.
Tendai Biti, the MDC’s secretary-general and Zimbabwe’s finance minister, admitted his party had been caught up in the transition, but they would learn from its mistakes. "The major lesson being learnt is that the MDC needs to reconnect with its base and needs to carry out protracted programmes of mobilisation, advocacy, education, recruitment and delivery. We accept fully the message that the MDC does not have a God-given right to govern and that the MDC by action has to wake up and work for the support of Zimbabweans," Mr Biti said.
The MDC was basking in the marginal success of stabilising the economy that it had scored in the unity government