THE MDC-T has angrily rejected a US-based pro-democracy group’s survey which suggests the party faces certain defeat at the next elections following a sharp collapse in support at a time President Robert Mugabe is enjoying a renewed surge in popularity.
The survey, conducted by international research group Freedom House, shows that support for the party has fallen from 38 percent in 2010 to 20 percent this year. By contrast, backing for Zanu PF grew to 31 percent from 17 percent, over the same period.
Conducted by researchers from South Africa and Zimbabwe, the survey also found that President Robert Mugabe would command the support of 31 percent of voters in a presidential election, ahead of rival Morgan Tsvangirai on 19 percent, an alarming prospect for the MDC-T.
New elections to replace the coalition government are now expected next year after the completion of ongoing constitutional reforms.
University of the Witwatersrand academic Susan Booysen, who devised and conducted the survey, said the results were sobering for the MDC-T whose popularity stood at a healthy 55 percent three years ago, giving the party a realistic prospect of ending Mugabe's three-decade stay in power.
“It shows us MDC-T is not only in a seriously bad position but the extent to which that is spread across the country and the provinces,” she said.
"I've heard people saying MDC-T is just not doing work in the constituencies and is spending too much time in the palace. They're taking for granted they're the crown princes. They are not capturing the desire for change.
“Perhaps they think they are crown prince that need only wait for Mugabe to go for it to fall in their lap. This is a wake-up call for them that there is no honeymoon.”
The MDC-T however, rejected the survey findings, insisting it remained the “most popular party within Zimbabwe.”
Said party spokesman Douglas Mwonzora: “The 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.
“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.”
Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said: "People are now beginning to realise that the MDC-T has no agenda. It (MDC-T) is externally funded and its interest is to please its master. People are beginning to see this for themselves.”
Politburo member Jonathan Moyo said the MDC-T’s rejection of the survey results was ironic and quipped: “It is not possible to ignore the fact that MDC-T, which has previously celebrated these surveys by the same quarters claiming its popularity, is now questioning the decline of its popularity. It’s ridiculous. If they believed them (surveys) before, they must believe them today.
“Do they only believe these surveys if they are in their favour? Too bad because things speak for themselves on the ground! The MDC-T has proven to be a party too preoccupied with itself, they have spent four years in government fighting for positions, and not a single signature policy issue.
“On the other hand, Zanu PF has understood that to create jobs we need to indigenise the economy and people identify with that.”
The survey polled a nationally representative sample of 1,198 adult Zimbabweans between 23 June and 7 July 2012. According to Freedom House, 47 percent of the respondents said they would not vote, or refused to indicate who they would vote for.
The MDC-T seized on this figure, arguing that: “It is important to note that a large number of Zimbabweans interviewed by the researchers refused to disclose their political affiliation. This is clear evidence of the level of intimidation they have been subjected to.
“While professional people may have carried out this research, the conditions under which the research was carried were not conducive for Zimbabweans to freely express their political preferences.”
Still, analysts said the results come as a huge surprise because, for years, there had been a near-default assumption by the MDC-T, activists and media that Mugabe had lost popular support and was only being sustained only by vote rigging, violence and intimidation.
They added that the report also resonates with signs of discontent about the MDC-T's performance in the unity government it formed with Zanu PF following the disputed election of 2008.
After joining the coalition government, the MDC-T took charge of the economy and other social affairs ministries.
But the economic stability and marginal growth of the last few years has not come with jobs and unemployment remains high at more than 90 percent. Again, observers argue that MDC-T ministers have fallen in love with their official cars and other trappings of power.