Analysis: As MDC elite grows wealthy, so support for Mugabe increases
A recent opinion poll that shows support for Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) plummeted in the last two years has thrown the spotlight on to party corruption and the tumultuous private life of leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Commissioned by US think tank Freedom House, the poll shows that only 20 per cent of Zimbabweans openly say they will vote for the MDC, down from 38 per cent in 2010, a year after the former opposition party entered a coalition government with president Robert Mugabe’s party. Support for Zanu-PF has shot up from 17 to 31 per cent.
Itai Zimunya of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa in Johannesburg, said: “What we could be seeing is the second wave of a politics of protest. We thought that with the MDC coming into power they were going to reform the state. What we are seeing now is that these people want to own 20 homes and 12 farms too.”
The MDC acted quickly, last week handing over the names of 12 party officials suspected of corruption to the police.
Across the country, ordinary Zimbabweans are seeing neighbours who were elected councillors on a pro-poor MDC ticket becoming rich. “The means are dubious,” says Mr Zimunya. “People are disgusted.”
Much has been made of the 47 per cent of locals polled who refused to say who they would vote for, evidence – says the MDC – of the fear that still characterises Zimbabwe’s political landscape.
But there are signs the former opposition party is no longer the automatic choice of techno-savvy urban school-leavers, forced to face up to unemployment levels of more than 80 per cent and the dizzying wealth of the Harare elite. For some, Mr Mugabe’s indigenisation programme, cloaked in the mantra of self-help, is “very seductive”.
Ageing but still a dignified and talented orator, Mr Mugabe’s public stature has been enhanced by his rival’s messy personal life. After a string of affairs following the death of his wife Susan in a car crash, Mr Tsvangirai is due to marry 35-year-old Elizabeth Macheka in Harare on Saturday. But a woman with whom the prime minister contracted a 12-day traditional “marriage” last November is trying to get a court injunction to block the wedding. Locadia Tembo is also claiming £9,400 per month in maintenance. She says Mr Tsvangirai has “other sources of income” besides his official monthly salary, believed to be less than £2,000.
The MDC leader is unlikely to be replaced before elections and analysts insist he is still the most popular official in the party. But secretary general Tendai Biti said in an opinion piece last week the MDC knew it had to “wake up and work for the support of Zimbabweans”.
It may not have much time. The Supreme Court recently gave Mr Mugabe until 1 October to set a date for three parliamentary by-elections. Zanu-PF hardliners are now pushing the president to instead set a date for general elections – without first holding a referendum on a new constitution as stipulated by the coalition deal. Real change, it seems, is still a long way off.
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