HARARE – IT is “dangerous” and foolhardy to dismiss Baba Jukwa’s online survey which showed Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai leading the presidential race, political analysts say.
The online opinion poll show Tsvangirai leads the pack with 85 percent of votes, while Mugabe can expect to be backed by 10 percent of Zimbabweans.
Welshman Ncube, leader of the smaller MDC, can expect to garner three percent of voters, while Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa and Kisinoti Mukwazhi were both tied on one percent.
While there was need for caution in the treatment of the data or survey since it was non-scientific, analysts told the Daily News that it would be equally foolish to ignore the outcome of the poll, as it conveyed a bold message of a people hungry for change.
Reverend Levee Kadenge, founding member of Christian Alliance, said: “It would be foolish to rubbish the survey on the basis that it was not scientific enough because we cannot deny the influence social media has.
“Even as Pastors, we are now on Facebook so we can keep track of what our parishioners are seeing so that we can preach messages that are timely and relevant.
“It is the same with politicians, they should also take heed because if they ignore this poll, it will be the same as ignoring the people,” Kadenge, who is also a senior lecturer at United Theological College, said.
Joy Mabege, a pro-democracy activist, said what was important was the spirit in which the poll was conducted.
“On a balance of probability, if we remove a margin of error of 30 percent, it still means the leading candidate (Tsvangirai) will still lead,” Mabenge said.
“Even if you go beyond the margin of error, it’s all about the spirit of those people who participated. The spirit is that people want something that is different from Zanu PF and they think it is embodied in the MDC.
“Social media influences politics; it played a critical role in North Africa uprisings.”
Zanu PF on one hand say they have no time for Baba Jukwa even though some of the party’s heavy weights like Youth and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere claim the faceless character, with over ?200 000 followers, was destabilising his family life
Charity Manyeruke, a University of Zimbabwe political scientist urged politicians not to underplay the importance of social media.
“If you want to take results from the Facebook poll, you have to make it scientific; you need to verify using other factors on the ground,” she said. “This poll means nothing; it’s about one person using their public space. It’s like going into someone’s bedroom and seeing what is happening there and thinking that it is happening everywhere.”
Dewa Mavhinga, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, said in the context of a country with a 70 percent rural population, people should not exaggerate the relevance of social media.
“Most Zimbabwean Facebook users are in the diaspora with limited political influence back at home,” Mavhinga said. “But as a source of information, social media is increasingly becoming important in Zimbabwe politics, but the decisive factor remains on the ground mobilisation and connections.
“It’s a feel good poll but probably all those who took part are not registered voters, it’s a campaign tool, not a scientifically credible poll, unfortunately.
“But that is not to say its result are not relevant, only that there should be caution in relying on Facebook polls.”
He also added that while the survey was an indicator of the general desire of change by Zimbabweans, it was not entirely a good indicator.