By Nelson Sibanda
HARARE – Results of a recent survey conducted by the Zimbabwe Democratic Institute which suggested that the Morgan Tsvangirai led formation still enjoyed 87 percent backing from MDC supporters even after the split, has attracted mixed reactions from the opposition and political analysts.
The December 2014 survey carried out by the politically independent and neutral public policy think-tank, found that The Renewal Team enjoyed 13 percent of the support and concluded that in the interest of democracy, re-unification was the only viable way to go.
ZDI sampled its findings from some 150 MDC supporting respondents drawn from Harare and Chitungwiza.
Harare urban had 104 respondents, Chitungwiza 26, Epworth 12 and Harare Rural eight.
It was indicated that MDC had weakened 66 percent.
Jacob Mafume, MDC Renewal spokesperson, doubted the authenticity of the findings, since his party was not presented the results ‘according to normal practice’.
Mafume said he had reservations with none-quantitative surveys and politicians with the habit of bringing out samples which paints them in good light after discredited party congresses.
“As MDC Renewal, we are not comfortable with surveys which seek to justify unpopular decisions taken at the so-called congresses.
“The organisation which carried out the survey should have come to us and other subjects to present their findings for interrogation.
“After the split, we took with us nine provincial chairpersons together with their followers and several district chairpersons.
“A huge number of our other followers did not come out in the open as they feared victimisation,” Mafume said, wondering how ZDI could have been convinced that its findings were a true reflection of the situation on the ground.
Obert Gutu, Mafume’s opposite and MDC-T spokesperson expressed satisfaction with the survey findings and described them as outcome of an exercise carried out by a respected local think tank.
Gutu told The Zimbabwean that since the survey was carried out by experts and professionals in the field, it would be irresponsible of people outside the profession to doubt the findings.
“Think tanks provide all serious political parties like MDC with a template from which to informatively plan.
“As a party, we would use all objective surveys as monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to identify where we fall short,” said Gutu, noting that there would not be sustainable way forward without objective surveys.
According to Gutu, MDC would utilise the findings as a vehicle through which to strengthen itself and chart the way forward.
He called on other political scientists among other relevant professionals to carry out similar surveys.
Rejoice Ngwenya, a respected Harare based political commentator, said though researches depended on sampling, the Tsvangirai brand has been running since 1999 and would be difficult to wish away.
“Though Tsvangirai has been criticised at some quarters, besides him, no other political leader has touched the hearts of the grassroots, hence the survey outcome.
“The survey findings suggests that Tsvangirai might still be associated with the popularity that characterises his brand, though whether that would translate into votes or not will be something else,” Ngwenya said.
Ngwenya noted that as an analyst whenever he writes something critical of Tsvangirai, he would receive venomous responses from across the country, suggesting that the MDC-T leader was still very popular with the people.
Methuseli Moyo, a Bulawayo based analyst said: “We have every reason to believe in the ZDI survey findings for now, until another survey comes up with different results.
“To the people, Tsvangirai remains the only alternative as other opposition leaders are not solid enough for the task ahead while others have since gone into hibernation,” Moyo said, noting that with the economy on a free fall and disgruntlement mounting among both the unemployed and civil servants, the survey could reflect the strong support for Tsvangirai.
Charles Mangongera, a Harare based analyst, differed with Moyo and Ngwenya, as he observed that the findings were statistically misleading.
He said the problem with the findings was that the survey was carried out in Harare alone, sampling opinions of some 150 people.
“The narrative is that the split left MDC weaker and people expressed that the parting of ways was unpopular.
“People are simply saying the MDC should come together for the 2018 elections,” said Mangongera.
He pointed out that the split was mainly as a result of personal clashes not ideological differences.
Zanu (PF) Spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo, could not be reached for his take. The Zimbabwean