THE Mass Public Opinion Institute, an independent research organisation, this week released the Afrobarometer round nine survey on Zimbabwe.
The survey found that opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change leader Nelson Chamisa would defeat President Emmerson Mnangagwa if an election were to be held today.
According to the findings, 33% of respondents would vote for Chamisa against 30% for Mnangagwa.
Predictably, the survey has struck fear into the hearts of self-important political elites, with Zanu PF propagandists comically erupting into spasms of anger. In their knee-jerk protestations, they have ridiculously sought to cast aspersions on the accuracy of the survey.
This is patently ludicrous. When Afrobarometer releases survey findings which depict Zanu PF in the lead, the apologists are quick to stand on Mount Nyangani, gleefully pat themselves on the back and proclaim to the whole world how wonderfully accurate the survey has been.
But they better stop fooling around and smell the coffee. This is only the second time an Afrobarometer survey has shown an opposition leader having an edge over an incumbent in this country.
You do not need Solomonic wisdom to grasp the issues at play here. The survey is a confirmation of what every self-respecting Zimbabwean has known since the beginning of time: Mnangagwa is unpopular and unelectable. It has always been that way. When you analyse his role in national politics since 1980, there is no escaping the conclusion that he is the archetypal hard sell.
From his days as Robert Mugabe’s bag carrier, he evolved into a brutal enforcer, more comfortable living in the shadows but without an iota of organic political capital of his own. He was more feared than loved. It took military intervention to rescucitate his political career after he had been outfoxed at the level of Machiavellian strategy by his opponents in Mugabe’s Zanu PF.
One of the thorny questions confronting Zanu PF today is whether Mnangagwa is a viable candidate for the 2023 general election. Party insiders saw how he spectacularly struggled to hold his own in the 2018 election. Once again, he needed special intervention to salvage a troubled brand.
Any dispassionate assessment of his performance scorecard in high office would confirm the obvious. The Mnangagwa administration has presided over: catastrophic economic decline; extrajudicial killings; international isolation; gross human rights violations, and breathtaking corruption. Above all, this government has shattered hope, reduced Zimbabwe to a laughing stock and stolen the future of young people. Youths are voting with their feet as they join the desperate quest for the proverbial greener pastures. The professional class has been bludgeoned into extreme poverty.
When the military ousted Mugabe in November 2017, many citizens – caught up in the euphoria of the dramatic moment – surmised: “Surely there is nobody worse than Robert Mugabe.” Well, it would be interesting to hear their thoughts today.
This election is for Chamisa to lose. But he must guard against complacency. His party needs a constitution as well as a clearcut ideology, principles and values. It must also mobilise an indomitable armada of selfless volunteers who are prepared to roll up their sleeves and knuckle down for the tough work ahead. The opposition will also need vast resources – a veritable war chest – for campaign material, logistics and dynamic manoeuvring.
Even with all these ingredients in place, one critical factor is still missing: political change can only be achieved when citizens decisively take destiny into their own hands.