Who will heal Zimbabwe? Public opinion points to steps toward nation-building

Though polarized and distrustful of political adversaries, Zimbabweans would welcome a wide range of specific actions to help heal the country in the wake of its disputed election, a new analysis from Afrobarometer suggests.

Public opinion survey data from 1999 through July 2018 document Zimbabwe’s deep divisions, including:

▪ High levels of social and political distrust, especially among supporters of opposition political parties. 

▪ A political divide deeply embedded in demographic structures (gender, urban vs. rural residence, age, education levels) as well as differences in preferred information sources and views of traditional leaders. 

▪ An ever-widening Partisan Trust Gap that leaves Zimbabwe more polarized than any other African country surveyed by Afrobarometer.

But the data also affirm popular support for steps by actors at all levels – from the president to the opposition to civil society to religious leaders – to move the country toward reconciliation, including:

▪ Presidential action that allays fears that “Mnangagwa will govern the same as Mugabe” by reaching out to the opposition and inviting talented technocrats into an inclusive Cabinet. 

▪ Toned-down rhetoric by an opposition focused on putting its divided house in order and leveraging its minority position in Parliament to push for meaningful reforms.

▪ A reversal of the trend toward militarization of political and administrative institutions.

▪ Effective devolution of powers and responsibilities to adequately resourced, politically autonomous provincial and metropolitan councils.

▪ Traditional authorities focused on their functions as custodians of customary law, rather than partisan mobilization.

▪ Engagement by strengthened independent commissions, a less partisan civil society channeling popular demands for reform, and religious leaders and educational institutions imparting messages of tolerance and unity with diversity.

Read Afrobarometer’s thought- and action-provoking new analysis here.