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Many Zimbabweans in Crisis Before Mugabe's Apparent Ouster

Many Zimbabweans in Crisis Before Mugabe's Apparent Ouster
by Julie Ray and Jay Loschky

Story Highlights

  • 74% in Zimbabwe unable to afford food they needed
  • 78% finding it difficult to get by on household income
  • Zimbabweans more confident in military than national government

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- For the first time in nearly four decades, Zimbabweans are contemplating a future without President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe was popular in Zimbabwe before the military seized control this week, with approval ratings at 69% in April and May. However, a potential change in leadership could bring hope to Zimbabweans -- many of whom are finding it increasingly difficult to afford even the basics.

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As of Thursday, Mugabe was reportedly in direct talks with the military about his future, but so far has refused to step down before next year's elections. The longtime leader and his wife, Grace Mugabe, have been under house arrest since Wednesday. Splits within the country's ruling party, Zanu-PF, over who should succeed Mugabe and his dismissal of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa prompted the current crisis.

Three in Four Struggling to Afford Food, Get By

Mugabe's successor -- regardless of who that would be -- would be tasked with rebuilding Zimbabwe's spiraling economy. Cash shortages in 2016 and 2017 left account holders unable to access funds, and companies unable to pay their workers -- stoking fears of a repeat of Zimbabwe's economic meltdown and hyperinflation nearly a decade ago. In this climate, about three in four Zimbabweans said they were unable to afford food in the past year (74%) and were finding it difficult or very difficult to get by on their household income (78%).

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The last time Zimbabweans struggled this much to afford food was in 2008, when inflation hit 500 billion percent. But notably, Zimbabweans were struggling even more to afford shelter in the past two years than they were previously. A record-high one in three Zimbabweans said they had struggled to afford adequate shelter for themselves or their families in both 2016 and 2017.

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Military Enjoys Higher Confidence Than Civilian Government

As popular as Mugabe has been in recent years, Zimbabweans typically have expressed more faith in the military that just detained him than in their national government. In the past several years, at least three in four Zimbabweans have expressed faith in their military, compared with roughly two-thirds who are confident in their national government.

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Implications

While Mugabe's fate and the future of Zimbabwe hang in the balance, the path forward will not be easy. There are more question marks than answers, including how fast the military will relinquish control to civilian leadership and to whom. For most Zimbabweans, Mugabe is the only leader they have ever known. If he is removed, the transition to new leadership -- regardless of whether the person comes from within the president's own party or the opposition -- is likely to be fraught with uncertainty, but with a degree of hope.

Survey Methods

These results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults in Zimbabwe, aged 15 and older, conducted April 8-May 8, 2017. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3.7 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

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