The Sunday Mail
Most Zimbabweans trust the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) among other key national institutions and have confidence in the country’s electoral process, including secrecy of the ballot, a research by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) has shown.
The research showed that Zimbabwans trust the ZDF for its professionalism.
Findings from the ZCC research titled “2018 Harmonised Elections: Prospects for Democratic Transition in Zimbabwe” — were presented to journalists yesterday during a breakfast meeting organised by the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum.
Most crucially, the study concluded that social media is the least trusted source of news during the election cycle, while local Government officials are the least trusted public officials.
“Related to citizen’s perceptions on elections is the question of their trust in key institutions.
“While data collected from Community Forums (CFs) did not seek to overtly identify the institutions which participants trust or do not trust, sentiments expressed were indicative of their areas of interest and or concerns.
“They indicated areas where participants felt their trust had been or may be threatened,” reads part of the ZCC report.
“Nevertheless, survey data is more revealing and direct about the public’s view on trust.
“Among the key institutions identified in this study, the army (66 percent), private press (43 percent) and the judiciary (41 percent) are the most trusted institutions.
“The State press (27 percent), local Government elected officials (29 percent) and the social media (30 percent) were ranked the least trusted institutions.
“It is evident that a significant number of the electorate are not familiar with the activities of the National and Provincial Assembly, as a significant number (30 percent) were not sure whether or not to trust this institution.
“Further disaggregation of the findings by province and gender indicates a consistently high level of trust of the military by respondents from both Midlands (65 percent) and Bulawayo (67 percent) and 66 percent for both genders,” it adds.
According to the ZCC, the findings represent a major departure from the established narrative about the military and citizens.
The invitation of international and multilateral poll observers by the new political administration, it observes, has bolstered confidence in the electoral process.
It is believed that the majority of Zimbabweans believe that the presence of international observers has improved the credibility and integrity of the election outcome.
Government has invited 46 countries, 15 regional and continental bodies to observe the July 30 election, with some bodies having already deployed long-term observer missions countrywide.
“The involvement of external observers, especially international observers (beyond AU and SADC), will thus improve the credibility and integrity of election outcomes.
“While the research tools used in this study were not designed to solicit for reasons why they have lost confidence in regional observers, it could be safely inferred that citizens feel that observers from inter-governmental agencies are less effective in discharging their mandates.
“On the other hand, international observers generally fare well in sticking to international principles of election observation,” said the report.
The findings also show that 69 percent of respondents felt that the ballot in the 2018 elections will be secret.
“However, it is an established principle that in any election, external observers should allow local stakeholders and citizens to determine the credibility and legitimacy of .election outcomes.”
The ZCC used a two-stage purposive sampling approach to select one province (P1) with the highest voter registration figures and another province (P2) with the lowest voter registration figures, according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
Within P1, two constituencies with the highest and second highest registration figures were selected.
Under P2, two constituencies with the lowest and second lowest registration figures were selected.
Also, at constituency level, the research team made use of ZCC member churches as conduits through which it accessed church members and non-members for the study.
Overall, a total 1 607 respondents were interviewed:786 males and 821 females.