By Ranga Mataire
Trust in non-government organisations has plummeted to an all-time low following the recent harmonised elections held in Zimbabwe and which were won by Zanu-PF’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
A recent post-election Afrobarometer policy paper report says only 29 percent of Zimbabweans trust civil society organisations with 51 unsure of their real mandate while 20 percent openly said they don’t trust them.
Titled “Heal the Beloved Country: Zimbabwe’s polarised electorate”, the post-election report was enumerated by University of Zimbabwe academic Professor Eldred Masungure and Michael Bratton, a senior advisor to Afrobarometer.
The policy paper states that citizens’ trust in public institutions has generally dampened. However, despite an orchestrated campaign to discredit the judiciary, the majority of Zimbabweans still have confidence in the country’s courts with a 52 percent approval rate.
Forty-one percent disapprove of the country’s judiciary while 8 percent of the populace had no position regarding the issue.
“For their part, civic organisations must integrate with grassroots society; they cannot have impact where – as is currently the case – large majorities of the population do not know what they do. Most importantly, civil society must end embedded relationships with opposition political parties, which were on open display in the 2013 and 2018 elections. To contribute to nation-healing efforts, NGOs – as well as the mass media -- must rise above partisanship,” the policy paper says.
No so long ago, the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) terminated its contract with civil society organisations citing alleged fraud and abuse of funds in its programmes.
USAid said it suspended funding to the three non-government organisations - Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), Counselling Services Unit (CSU) and the Election Resource Centre (ERC).
United States Embassy acting public relations officer John Taylor was recently quoted in a local daily saying: “We can confirm allegations of misuse of US funding by local Zimbabwean partners. Attempts to divert US funds from their intended use are unacceptable under any circumstances.”
The Afrobarometer report vindicates the views of most governments in the SADC region that have in the past criticised non-governmental organisations for acting like proxies of opposition political parties.
At recent meeting of Former Liberation Movements of Southern Africa (FLMSA) secretaries-general of respective countries still governed by former liberation movements raised concern over some non-governmental organisations that were meddling in politics.
The parties agreed to exchange intelligence through their shared historical bonds on nefarious activities of non-governmental organisations pushing regime change agendas. It was also agreed that former liberation movements must utilise the organisational and intellectual capacity in dealing with possible threats seeking to undermine their continued hegemonic hold on power.
Contrary to a negative perception held by some opposition political parties, the Afrobarometer research established that majority Zimbabweans have confidence in the judiciary with 52 percent interviewed saying they have trust in the country’s courts. Only 41 percent said they did not have confidence in the courts and eight percent were not sure of their position.
Interestingly, most Zimbabweans trust religious leaders than politicians with a 67 percent approval rate. In terms of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), the research states that 46 percent have confidence in its work while 41 percent disapprove. Fourteen percent have no opinion over the matter.
On the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), the report urged the commission to play a constructive role in investigating human-rights abuses and promoting tolerance. It said between one-third and one-half of Zimbabweans haven’t heard enough about the ZHRC to know whether it can be trustworthy.
Afrobarometer is produced collaboratively by social scientists from more than 30 African countries with coordination provided by the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) in Ghana, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) in South Africa, the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, and the Institute for Empirical Research in Political Economy (IREEP) in Benin.