Trouble for sitting MPs, councillors

Source: Trouble for sitting MPs, councillors | The Sunday Mail May 27, 2018

More than half of Zimbabweans are not happy with the performance of their Members of Parliament and councillors, with urbanites being the most displeased, research by South Africa-based Pan-African research network Afrobarometer shows.

The findings (“Zimbabwe’s MPs, local councillors get poor ratings on responsiveness and performance”) might be ominous for sitting elected officials ahead of the 2018 harmonised elections.

According to the research, only 20 percent of Zimbabweans believe that their Parliamentary representatives listen to their concerns. Twenty-five percent say the same about their councillors.

Further, 62 percent of respondents do not feel free to criticise their MPs, while 55 percent say the same about councillors.

The survey was carried out by Mass Public Opinion Institute – an independent research institute – on behalf of Afrobarometer.

Researchers interviewed 1 200 adult Zimbabweans between January 28 and February 10 last year before publication of the findings last week.

The findings have a margin of error of plus or minus three percent, and proclaim 95 percent accuracy.

Reads the report in part: “According to results of the 2017 Afrobarometer survey in Zimbabwe, few citizens think their MPs and local councillors are willing to listen to their constituents, and a majority doesn’t feel free to criticise them.

“Only about half approve of their job performance and express trust in them. Zimbabweans who live in urban areas, have post-secondary education, and or support the opposition political party are particularly critical of their MPs and local councillors.”

Manicaland MPs have the highest disapproval rates.

“On the whole, Zimbabweans are not impressed by the performance of their local elected officials. Fewer than half of respondents ‘approve’ or ‘strongly approve’ of the way their MPs (40 percent) and local government councillors (49 percent) have done their jobs over the previous 12 months.

“Disapproval is particularly high among urban residents, the best-educated respondents, the middle-aged (36- to 55-year-olds), and MDC-T supporters.

“Manicaland stands out with its high disapproval rates for MPs (62 percent) and local councillors (58 percent), while Matabeleland North residents are least likely to complain about the performance of their local elected officials (31 percent for MPs, 27 percent for local councillors).

“Over the years, popular disapproval has usually been higher for MPs than for local government councillors, with gaps ranging up to 12 percentage points in 1999 and 7 points in 2017.

“The year 2012, which coincides with the tenure of the (inclusive Government), saw the lowest levels of disapproval for local elected officials.”

Research also concluded that Harare and Bulawayo are well below the national average for residents who feel they are listened to by their representatives.

Older and less-educated citizens, however, feel listened to by their representatives.

“Few Zimbabweans think their elected local officials listen to them. Only two out of 10 respondents (20 percent) say MPs ‘often’ or ‘always’ do their best to listen to citizens, while a majority say they ‘never’ listen (31 percent) or ‘only sometimes’ listen (38 percent).

“Similarly, only one in four respondents (25 percent) think local government councillors ‘often’ and ‘always’ listen.

“Rural residents are twice as likely as urbanites to perceive both groups of representatives as often and always doing their best to listen (31 percent vs 14 percent).

“Similarly, older and less-educated respondents are more likely to feel listened to than their younger and more-educated counterparts.

“Since these officials are elected on a partisan basis and the ruling Zanu-PF party holds a majority of seats, it is not surprising that respondents who identify as Zanu-PF supporters are more than three times as likely as MDC-T adherents to see MPs and local government councillors as willing to listen.

“But even among supporters of the ruling party, only about four in 10 think that MPs (37 percent) and local councillors (42 percent) listen to the people.”

According to the findings, only a third (33 percent) of respondents said they felt free to criticise their MPs, while 41 percent said the same about local councillors.

“Men, respondents with post-secondary qualifications and Zanu-PF supporters feel less constrained than women, respondents with less education and MDC-T adherents in expressing criticism of local elected representatives. But even among these less-constrained groups, about half say they feel “not very free” or “not at all free” to criticise.

“Among provinces, Midlands stands out: Eight out of 10 respondents (83 percent) say they feel unfree to criticise their MPs and local councillors.”