HARARE – Tendai Biti told Violet Gonda in a VOA radio interview recently that people in Zimbabwe have short memories, but he was wrong.
We haven’t forgotten who eradicated our pensions and life savings, who printed money, whose policies caused inflation of 500 billion percent or who took 25 zeroes off the currency.
We haven’t forgotten who imposed price controls which left supermarkets empty and forced parents to put their children to bed hungry.
We haven’t forgotten how we had to trek across the border to buy all our food or how we had to be parted from family members who had no choice but to go to the diaspora to make money to send home.
Nor have we forgotten who turned the situation around but now people want more, and rightly so.
Everyone is tired of this incessant “Zimbabwe Situation”, the never ending political fighting, power struggles, intimidation and back stabbing.
Everyone is tired of watching people in positions of power amassing huge fortunes while the masses struggle to survive from one month end to the next.
The MDC won people’s hearts with their promises of a better life, jobs, development and prosperity.
They won people’s votes on bread and butter issues but the latest Freedom House opinion poll must serve as a massive wake up call to the MDC that all is not well for most ordinary Zimbabweans.
When the US-based NGO, Freedom House, released the results of their latest survey the easiest, knee-jerk reaction was denial.
The survey showed that in a June poll of 1 198 adults, Zanu PF’s support had risen from 17 to 31 percent while the MDC’s had dropped from 38 to 20 percent.
Immediately people said that those who were surveyed were too intimidated or frightened to indicate their true political affiliations and that this fear had produced a skewed result.
The Freedom House report in fact indicated that 47 percent of the people they had surveyed either said they wouldn’t vote at all or refused to say who they would vote for.
But there was something much more worrying than the statistics.
Far more important than the numbers and percentages, were the words of the people who conducted the Freedom House survey.
The South African academic Susan Booysen, who supervised the survey said: “I’ve heard people saying MDC-T is just not doing work in the constituencies and is spending too much time in the palace. They’re taking for granted they’re the Crown Prince’s. They are not capturing the desire for change.”
Whilst those might be damning words for the MDC to swallow, they are ones that identify exactly the sentiment that many Zimbabweans feel nearly four years into the unity government.
In the three-and-half years since MDC councillors and mayors took office in many centres around the country, the conditions for ordinary people have not improved at all, in many places they have actually deteriorated.
Towns are awash with litter including the very centre of CBDs. Garbage lies dumped on roadsides, water supplies are minimal, street lights haven’t worked for many years, suburban roads are disintegrating and gravel roads barely usable.
Illegal cultivation, pavement vending, roadside car sales and taxi ranks are out of control.
The MDC must not presume people’s undying support, nor be surprised that their popularity has waned.
They must get back in touch with the issues that ordinary people are having to contend with everyday.
As we get closer to elections the problem is not which party people will vote for but if they will bother to vote at all. – Cathy Buckle