Most Zimbabweans somewhat trust the army, but loathe military rule because of fear that soldiers could stifle their freedom of expression, an Afrobarometer survey has revealed.
By Everson Mushava
In its latest survey released on Wednesday, Afrobarometer said older citizens above the age of 56 somewhat trust soldiers as opposed to their younger counterparts.
The research, led by the Mass Public Opinion Institute, interviewed 1 200 adult Zimbabweans across the country between January 28 and February 10, 2017.
It was carried out before, but released after the November military intervention that deposed former President Robert Mugabe and ushered in Emmerson Mnangagwa’s rule.
The research sought to establish how the Zimbabwean population sees its military following the events.
The Afrobarometer survey showed considerable public trust in the army, but also fear criticising the army along with a clear rejection of military rule as an option for Zimbabwe.
“Citizens think the army is generally capable of protecting the country from external and internal security threats, but there is substantial scepticism about soldiers’ training, equipment, professionalism, and respect for citizens’ rights,” part of the report read.
The findings indicated about 74% of the respondents aged 56 or above had trust in the military compared to the 63% of the middle-aged and 61% of the youth.
“A huge partisan divide is evident when it comes to trust in the military. A commanding majority (86%) of Zanu PF supporters trust the army, more than double the proportion (41%) of MDC-T partisans who share similar sentiments. Among non-partisans, nearly six in 10 (57%) express trust in the army,” the report read.
“Trust in the military is lower in cities (58%) than in rural areas (68%) and declines with respondents’ educational attainment. While more than three-quarters (77%) of those without formal education say they trust the army, only 52% of those with post-secondary qualifications agree.”
According to Afrobarometer, there was polarisation of public perceptions between members of various political parties, with Zanu PF members more accommodating to military rule, but clear that they felt intimidated to criticise the army.
“So is the one issue on which supporters of both major parties — and of no party — agree almost equally: that they do not feel free to criticise the military.”
A majority in all 10 provinces expressed trust in the army. But the trust is both high and low in the Matabeleland provinces, which experienced the deadly Gukurahundi disturbances in the first decade of Zimbabwe’s independence.
The survey indicates that popular trust in the military was relatively high in State institutions.
“Trust in the army does not mean freedom to criticise it, survey results show. Nearly three quarters (73%) of respondents say they feel ‘not very free’ or ‘not at all free’ to voice criticism of the army; fewer than one in four say they feel ‘somewhat free’ (14%) or ‘completely free’ (9%) to express criticism.”