Harare- Wake up and smell the coffee.
This is how analysts describe the message being conveyed to Prime Morgan Tsvangirai and his formation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) by the damning Freedom House survey whose results were revealed recently.
The survey by the United States-based non-governmental organisation revealed that the MDC-T support had plummeted while that of its rivals Zanu (PF) was on the surge.
While there is huge debate whether the findings were a true reflection of what was obtaining on the ground, critics say it confirms all is not well in the MDC-T.
The critics claim these are signs that the PM and his party may face defeat at the next polls.
Critics say MDC has failed to clearly articulate its policies around important national issues such as black economic empowerment and land reform.
While the MDC-T party has appeared to rubbish the results of the survey, which curiously claimed that most Zimbabweans relied on state media and trusted the military, insiders claimed PM Tsvangirai was quacking in his boots and considered the move a stab in the back by Freedom House, a former ally.
Luke Tamborinyoka, PM Tsvangirai’s spokesman, said Zimbabweans should brace for a proper survey when the country holds fresh polls to bring finality to the coalition government.
“With all those satellite dishes at police stations and even in army barracks, the Freedom House-sponsored survey says the State media (ZBC and the Herald) are the media of choice in Zimbabwe?
“That Zimbabweans trust the army and the police? There will be a proper survey at the polling stations in the next 12 months and that survey will confirm that Morgan Tsvangirai is the embodiment of the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe,” said Tamborinyoka.
Obert Gutu, the MDC-T spokesperson for Harare, who is also the deputy minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, described the survey as fundamentally flawed.
“It is the height of intellectual delinquency for any right-thinking person to argue that all of a sudden, the people of Zimbabwe now have increased faith and trust in the army, the police and the CIO as well as the AG’s Office.
“More poignantly, it is an unmitigated absurdity for any sane person to believe that the ZBC is the most trusted source of news in Zimbabwe,” said Gutu.
He added that while the MDC-T had nothing but utmost respect for Professor Susan Booysen and her research team, it was his party’s view that their latest survey was “hopelessly misleading, politically mischievous and horrendously misguided.”
“We might have our own challenges in the MDC but the situation on the ground clearly points that we are heading for a landslide victory in the forthcoming historic general elections. Zanu (PF) is incorrigibly unpopular and only a miracle, repeat a miracle, will see them win any free and fair election in Zimbabwe today, tomorrow or within the foreseeable future,” said Gutu.
The MDC-T spokesperson, Douglas Mwonzora, said his party respects the right of individuals and institutions to carry out opinion surveys on the views of the people of Zimbabwe from time to time.
“However, we note that surveys carried out under current conditions are difficult to rely on due to the fact that they are held under conditions of major fluidity,” said Mwonzora.
“We note that a lot of people interviewed refused to disclose their political preferences. This is obviously for fear of intimidation and the violence they have been subjected to by Zanu (PF) and its military junta. This margin of terror fundamentally impugns the conclusion that can be derived from this report,” he said.
Critics note the MDC-T has been mired by factionalism since it entered the government of national unity with President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu (PF).
Tapera Kapuya, a Zimbabwe political analyst based in Australia, said the Freedom House report was suggestive of the political realities in Zimbabwe and brought to the fore what has generally been said in hushed tones by many in the democracy movement.
“It should ring as a wake-up call for the party to re-organise itself and re-invigorate its efforts,” said Kapuya.
He added that the current posturing by the party of trying to impugn the report and fault everyone but itself would not help matters.
“PM Tsvangirai must read this report as a wake-up call. This might very well be taken as an indictment on his leadership,” said Kapuya.
He claimed that with its senior leadership in government, the party’s structures have not been adequately strengthened. With few exceptions, the party appeared to have a leadership without active followers.
Other critics say the party’s record in the government has not been compelling to date. While there are surely exceptions, few MDC cabinet members could convincingly justify why they are in office.
Blessing Vava, a Harare based political analyst, said the results of the survey did not come as a surprise.
“The performance of the MDC in the inclusive government has been rather questionable. The issues of poor service delivery and corruption in councils are mostly attributed to the MDC because they are in control of most local government’s country wide,” said Vava.
He agreed with Kapuya that instead of making noise dismissing the report, the party should re-strategising their actions, articulating clear policies that resonate with the people.
Lawton Hikwa, a Bulawayo-based political analyst, said it should be noted that such surveys were usually time-bound and the surveyed population sample normally influenced by major events of that time.
Hikwa said accumulation of events have been taking place within the body politic and obviously influencing people’s perceptions and or feelings.
For example, alleged corruption of members of Parliament and councillors in local authorities, certain proclivities surrounding personal conduct and indiscretions of some leaders within the MDC-T and the reported defections from the party and service delivery had influenced citizens.
“Nevertheless, public opinion is very difficult to measure and whenever a survey of this nature is carried out, the results are usually suspect and not necessarily accepted as empirical or holding scientific warranty,” said Hikwa.
Some supporters of PM Tsvangirai believe the findings were in fact a blessing in disguise for the premier, giving him opportune time to rejuvenate his party ahead of polls.
Others caution Zanu (PF) not to start opening the champagne bottles as yet, claiming the findings could be a ruse intended to hoodwink President Mugabe ahead of polls.