Results of an independent survey of Zimbabwean voters show that opposition leader Nelson Chamisa could defeat the incumbent president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, in the national elections later this year. But many voters expressed concern about whether the election would be free and fair.

The survey was done in January for The Brenthurst Foundation by independent London-based research group SABI Strategy. Using an in-depth 15-minute questionnaire, the survey shows Chamisa would win 53% of the vote to Mnangagwa’s 40% among those who say they will definitely vote.

It also showed that Chamisa’s Citizens Coalition for Change party (CCC) is set to win the parliamentary election, out-performing Zanu-PF, which has held power for 43 years since independence in 1980.

Asked “Thinking ahead to the next general election, which party will you cast your vote for?”, 52% said they would vote for the CCC while 40% said Zanu-PF.

The CCC was formed out of the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance in January last year to clear up voter confusion over the use of the MDC name by a party hostile to it.

Some 42% of survey respondents said they had voted for Zanu-PF in 2018, and 40% had voted for the CCC’s predecessor, the MDC Alliance, suggesting a sea-change in voter sentiment as Zimbabwe’s economic collapse accelerated under Mnangagwa.

But 47% of voters believe the 2023 election will not be free and fair compared to just 38% who say it will be free and fair. “Cheating in the counting process”’ was cited as the biggest threat to a free and fair election (41%) with “the government abusing its power” cited by 29% and “security force violence” cited by 21%.

Asked why they were shifting their support, voters cited weak leadership, corruption, bad policies and poor future prospects as the main reasons.

Chamisa emerged as the public figure with the favourability score of 59% to Mnangagwa’s 43%, narrowly ahead of CCC MP and former MDC finance minister Tendai Biti.

When it came to political parties, the CCC enjoyed a net-favourability (subtracting negative ratings from positive ratings) of 31%, way ahead of Zanu-PF’s -4%.

More voters believed the CCC would govern more effectively, with 47% favouring the opposition party compared to 33% favouring Zanu-PF.

Summary of key findings

  • If an election were to be held tomorrow, Chamisa would win 53% of the vote;
  • If an election were to be held tomorrow, the CCC would win 52% of the parliamentary vote;
  • Chamisa has a positive favourability rating of 16 points higher than
  • On governance, 47% of respondents believe the CCC can govern more effectively while just 33% believe Zanu-PF can govern more effectively;
  • 54% of respondents believe Zimbabwe is moving in the wrong direction. The most important issues are corruption and jobs;
  • A majority of respondents believe the Zanu-PF government of the past four decades is the main reason for the country’s current problems;
  • A majority of respondents (51%) would be happy to see a coalition govern Zimbabwe;
  • 58% of respondents surveyed believe that Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine is an act of aggression that should be condemned;
  • 46% of respondents would “go immediately” if they had the opportunity to leave Zimbabwe;
  • 78% of respondents have a close family member living outside Zimbabwe. Of these respondents, 51% say their close family member is living in South Africa; and
  • 47% of respondents believe the upcoming election will not be free and fair mainly because of cheating in the counting process.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.

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