Lloyd Gumbo Herald Reporter
THE United States has reportedly gagged one of its think tanks, Freedom House, from releasing its latest survey results that indicate a crushing victory for President Mugabe and Zanu-PF in harmonised elections due tomorrow.This comes at a time when the leading British newspaper The Guardian, has once again predicted a victory for President Mugabe and Zanu-PF.
In an article written by David Smith, and reproduced elsewhere in this issue, the Guardian said President Mugabe had confounded his critics on the campaign and was set to romp to victory
“Running for election for the seventh time, he (President Mugabe) is widely tipped to beat his rival Morgan Tsvangirai in Wednesday’s poll — and to be ushered back into respectability by a pragmatic West,” read the article.
The Independent, also of Britain yesterday tipped President Mugabe and Zanu-PF in an article headlined “Odds stacked against Morgan Tsvangirai as Robert Mugabe scents victory in Zimbabwe” that said, “Robert Mugabe looks like he can smell victory again . . . the odds seem stacked against 61-year-old Tsvangirai replacing the 89-year-old Mugabe, who has held power continuously in the 33 years since Zimbabwe secured its independence from Britain.”
Sources close to the US gag order said the Freedom House survey results give President Mugabe a 10 percent lead over Mr Tsvangirai of MDC-T and predicts a two thirds majority for Zanu-PF in the National Assembly where the revolutionary party is tipped to garner at least 140 seats in the 210 seat lower house.
The source said the survey predicts to a first round victory for President Mugabe, while MDC leader Professor Welshman is expected to give a good account of himself as his party has moved from a splinter group to a full-fledged political outfit with structures in nearly all provinces.
At the time the survey was conducted, the Nomination Court had not yet sat and the presidential contest was deemed to be a three-horse race.
Observers, however, say the presidential contest was still a three-horse race as Dr Dumiso Dabengwa and Mr Kisinoti Mukwazhe’s candidature would not reach 1 percent share of the vote, a position worsened by Mr Mukwazhe’s announcement that he had withdrawn from the contest.
Though the US embargoed the survey, the source said Mr Tsvangirai and his kitchen cabinet were told of the findings and advised to shift their campaign from a quest for victory to an attack on the process to create grounds to reject their inevitable defeat.
Freedom House last year commissioned a survey that found that Zanu-PF’s popularity among Zimbabweans was increasing, while that of MDC-T was plunging.
It revealed that Zanu-PF’s popularity increased to 31 percent, up from 17 percent in 2010, while MDC-T’s support plummeted from 38 percent in 2010 to 19 percent, over the same period.
It is understood that the US embassy in South Africa instructed Freedom House never to release the latest results after initial indications gave President Mugabe a 10 percentage point lead over Mr Tsvangirai.
Sources told The Herald that Witwatersrand University lecturer and analyst Susan Booysen who supervised last year’s survey instructed the analysts to have a re-look at the initial poll findings or to re-do the whole research as it was inimical to MDC-T’s chances of challenging the election results given the high chances that the party would lose the harmonised elections..
“The initial poll findings indicated that Mugabe’s popularity had increased by 10 percent ahead of Tsvangirai. Ncube’s support has also increased from less than one percent to over six percent.
“After the findings were presented to Booysen, she ordered that the team re-look at the feasibility of the statistics or to conduct another survey.
“The team preferred to conduct another poll finding based on the grounds that a lot of things have changed since campaigning has started.
“It was felt that the electorate, some of whom did not disclose their affiliation last time were now politically active,” said a source.
Another source alleged that Prof Booysen advised the MDC-T of the findings and urged the party to either pull out of the electoral process or to discredit the polls.
In an interview with The Herald, Prof Booysen denied the existence of a new poll and the US embassy’ order that they must not publish the results.
“The last report we conducted is the one we published last year that your paper quoted. There is no new report. A lot of things have changed because now there are campaigns that are taking place.
“We never produced such a report. There is no way the American embassy would have stopped us from publishing it,” she said.
Prof Booysen was recently quoted in the American multinational media house — Bloomberg, saying there was little chance of MDC-T springing an upset on Zanu-PF, a development the source put to the findings of the embargoed survey.
“The MDC-T lost moral ground in urban areas and its other constituencies and they are no longer able to say they will win an election provided it is free and fair,” she said.
“The MDC-T has little chance of victory on two main grounds: lack of preparedness and the voters’ roll, which really can, it seems, be used for manipulation.
“There is also a threat of violence at Zanu-PF’s disposal, whether violence is used or not.”
Booysen said this would show MDC-T that there was no honeymoon in politics.
“Perhaps they think that 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,” she said.
Leading British newspaper, the Guardian in March predicted that Zanu-PF would be victorious in the elections as it was managing its politics well, way ahead of MDC-T and other parties.
The paper said Zanu-PF had clear empowerment programmes compared to MDC-T that had been encumbered by Mr Tsvangirai’s sex scandals and questionable handling of public finances.
Several surveys from the likes of the Council on Foreign Relations, Afrobarometer, and Mass Public Opinion Institute and pronouncements from MDC-T allies among them the NCA, Concerned ZCTU Affiliates, Zimbabwe Vigil and Sokwanele, all pointed to a victory for Zanu-PF at tomorrow’s polls.