Starting from five major political parties at independence, the history of multiparty politics in Zimbabwe is marked by a fragmented opposition that reached a peak in a power-sharing Government of National Unity (GNU) but has never broken the ruling party’s 35-year hold on power. Does this history reflect what Zimbabweans want in their politics?
With a clear voice, Zimbabweans demand a choice among multiple parties in competitive elections, according to the latest Afrobarometer survey. Yet a majority of citizens also fear that competition among political parties often leads to violent conflict. Most have little faith in the country’s opposition parties, and public opinion is divided as to whether the opposition presents a viable alternative vision and plan for the country.
Survey findings indicate that Zimbabweans see differences between the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and opposition parties based on their economic and development policies and the perceived integrity and experience of party leaders. The ruling party is more likely than the opposition to be perceived as capable of dealing with challenges confronting the nation, including fighting corruption, controlling prices, creating jobs, and improving health care.
Yet for ruling and opposition parties alike, Zimbabweans believe that political leaders are more interested in advancing their own political ambitions than in serving the people.