Survey Shows Shocking Figures of Support For Tsvangirai

CABINET SWEARING IN: Results of a survey conducted in May this year were released at a seminar in Harare today and they reflect the euphoria that engulfed the nation at that time, when the Inclusive Government had just been formed and people were certain that Morgan Tsvangirai would unlock foreign aid for the country and improve their living conditions

Harare, Zimbabwe, 29 September 2009

I attended a Mass Opinion Public Institute dissemination seminar today in Harare.

The body was presenting the results of the Afro Barometer survey conducted in May this year, barely three months after the formation of the Inclusive Government.

Morgan Tsvangirai swept the board in this survey.

Dollarisation had been introduced in January, a few weeks before Tsvangirai was sworn in as Prime Minister and things had become immediately available in the shops. With Tsvangirai in the Inclusive Government, there was a palpable air of optimism in the air and it shows in the results:

71% of the people interviewed said that the Inclusive Government was "doing very well or fairly well" on the issue of Economic Management.

In terms of trust in political leaders, the figures went Tsvangirai's way:

28% Trusted him "somewhat", while 50% trusted him "a lot". For Mugabe, 35% did not trust him "at all", 22% trusted him "a little", 19% somewhat and 18% trusted him "a lot".

In terms of job approval at that time (May 2009), 19% approved of Mugabe, whereas 36% approved of Tsvangirai. Asked further, it turned out that 45% approved of Tsvangirai "a lot", while only 4% approved of Mugabe "a lot".

The Mass Opinion Public Institute, who conducted this research under the guidance of the Michigan State University and the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, freely admit that the figures are more a reflection of "optimism" than reality on the ground.

Back in May this year, people where optimistic that Morgan Tsvangirai was going to get aid from the West and put the economy back on track.

This is even more evident when you look at the specifics of the asked of the respondents.

In terms of the problems facing them, the respondents across the country put Education at Number One, followed closely by "Management of the Economy", "health", Food Shortages" and "Unemployment."

They referred to these as "problems", which contradicts the overall impression from this survey, namely that the Inclusive Government was doing a good job.

Of concern to those who attended the seminar today was the fact that governance issues, human rights abuses and constitutional matters were at the bottom of the table of concerns for our citizens.

They are worried about the economy and could not care less about the human rights, free speech and all the rest of it.

I also engaged the people at the Institute about the timing of the survey. I asked them if, at the time when this survey was done, Tsvangirai had started telling the world that "President Mugabe is not going anywhere. He is the solution."

They agreed that he had not begun saying this, which as I have always said, was the beginning of his unpopularity with the people.

At the time, it was also not apparent that the MDC and Tsvangirai had failed to get economic aid into the country. Most people still thought the Prime Minister would unlock that aid. The situation is now different and even the organisers of the survey agreed with me on this.

In addition, we also looked closely at approval back then of the Inclusive Government by province.

Here, a pattern emerges. The people of Matabeleland were most against the Inclusive Government, with Matabeleland South and Bulawayo especially rejecting the Inclusive Government in large numbers.

In Bulawayo, 42% of the people said the Inclusive Government was not a good idea, while 47% in Matabeleland South either did "not know" or thought is a very bad idea.

Manicaland was a surprise, with 45% either saying "don't know" or saying it was a very bad idea.

I explained to the seminar today that the people of Matabeleland have been here before and that is why they are against this move. They went through it with Joshua Nkomo and Mugabe and they know from experience that Mugabe can not be trusted to hold his end of the bargain.

Manicaland, where the MDC swept the board in parliamentary elections, are against the Inclusive Government only because they, having voted exclusively for the MDC, did not want Mugabe in government and wanted an exclusively MDC government. They were, therefore, disappointed that Tsvangirai had allowed Mugabe to get away with it.

This is confirmed when you look at the figures breaking down support for the Inclusive Government by party affiliation.

Whereas only 19% of ZANU PF supporters said the Inclusive Government was a bad idea, 32% of MDC supporters said it was a bad idea. This means more MDC supporters are dissatisfied with the Coalition idea than ZANU PF supporters.

I think we all know why.

As I told the organisers, my main problem with the survey is that it is historical. Things are happening too quickly in Zimbabwe and this survey, as even they admitted, no longer reflects the reality on the ground.

We can not say that people are satisfied with this Government when we have 80% of teachers still on strike, 60% of doctors either on go-slow or complete strike, workers up in arms because they can not afford the food that now fills shop shelves.....

It is a nice measure of the optimism engulfing the nation in the aftermath of the formation of the coalition between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

As one other participant pointed out at the seminar, everyone you ask now agrees that neither STERP nor the 100-day Plan have met their targets or even fulfilled a part of the promise they held out.

All this happened after the survey was conducted.

I eagerly wait for the next one.


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