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Smoke and Mirrors’ – Afro barometer can’t ‘win’ Mnangagwa any trust

Emmerson Mnangagwa and his regime are illusionists. 

They have mastered the art of ‘smoke and mirrors’, used by magicians to deceive gullible sections of our society, through the obfuscation of important information.

More important, as we count down to his departure, a more discerning electorate will not take any information given at face value, but must be able to question authenticity, before making rushed conclusions – failure of which can be self-defeating.

Mnangagwa is going to use dubious polls, suspicious social media portals to agenda set, divert attention from his failures, to issues that neither bring bread nor tea to our tables.

Not a coincidence that Afro barometer, must not be used by African dictators to justify rigging of elections, especially Mnangagwa whose approval is increasingly waning within his own Zanu PF party and the nation at large.

Afro barometer in Zambia for instance had projected a 46.4% for Edgar Lungu’s Patriotic Front party, and 50.4 for Hakainde Hichilema’s UNDP.

In the final vote count, Lungu polled 31.71 against Hichilema’s 59.2%.

The strategy here is to create the ‘bandwagoning’ effect, through the creation of the false impression of Mnangagwa’s sudden surge in popularity, using a poll, which has not been put to a scientific test, the figure 1200 is too small to make conclusions for over 6 million voters.

Consequently, for its own integrity and work in Zimbabwe, Afro barometer, should be a believable source of information in gauging public mood, in key areas of governance, as a guidance to the next elections in 2023.

The importance of polls during the election season can never be dismissed.

There is no questioning, that polls are important, not just for politicians in their campaigns, but, the electorate too, so it makes wise, informed decisions.

The Afro barometer survey of 1200 Zimbabweans, which concludes that 51% of them still trust Mnangagwa, interestingly, with a caveat though, that they are not happy about the badly performing economy.

Now from where I stand 1200 too small a sample figure to go around town with, juxtaposed to national popularity, resulting in easy conclusions that this is an endorsement of Mnangagwa’s leadership.

Moreso, for media houses that have been interviewing larger populations of people and making conclusions to the contrary. Creating an information gap for us to understand the key variables that would lead to the conclusion of Mnangagwa’s popularity.

There are for instance, in journalistic work, scientific tools such as the RAOSOFT calculator that can also be a guidance to the credibility of this latest poll by the Mass Public Opinion Institute.

Secondly, in Zimbabwe and here in the Diaspora the fear is real, I am not likely to be a reliable respondent to a questionnaire, whose motive I am not clear on.

Evoking memories of the late Masipula Sithole ‘margins of terror’ vs ‘margins of error’, the study had an ‘error’ “rate of +/-3 percentage points at 95% confidence level.”

Let alone those people in Zimbabwe, who live in the climate of fear, we do not have the background or necessary information to understand fully their willingness to respond, and more importantly, their personal safety by conveniently telling the Afro barometer, what they wanted to hear.

There is a trust factor to be considered here.

I do not at this juncture wish to go into scientific arguments to do with the merits and demerits of different research methods, qualitative or quantitative vis-à-vis the lenses through which various theoretical traditions, have been used to explain them. That will be for a second part.

It should, however, be noted that Afro Barometers track record in Zimbabwe has not been without controversy, creating a large margin of trust between the international organisation and Zimbabweans.

We remember the MPOI survey of 2015, which concluded that, Zimbabweans feared President Robert Mugabe but would vote for him with a near two thirds majority if an election was to be held. The same MPOI would also conclude the fear factor, that not many Zimbabweans were willing to pass any comments about Mugabe.

The margin of terror becomes a key determining component of any poll result, because a climate of fear, is not likely to lead to a credible result, but rather, an ‘illusion’ of a popular incumbent. To be continued..

Grace Kwinjeh is a journalist and can be reached on [email protected]