THE Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) has been stunned by revelations its support has dwindled, while that of its main rival, ZANU-PF is on the rise ahead of crucial polls next year.
A survey by Freedom House, a United States-based non-governmental organisation that previously funded activities of the MDC-T, has sent some shockwaves in the labour-backed party.
While there is serious debate on whether or not the findings were a true reflection of what is obtaining on the ground, critics say it all the same confirmed that all was not well in the MDC-T.
Critics warned that the survey could point to possible defeat of the MDC-T at the next polls.
The MDC-T, according to critics, has failed to clearly articulate its policies around important national issues such as black economic empowerment and land reform and has struggled to uproot corruption within its rank and file.
Party leader, Prime Minister (PM) Morgan Tsvangirai, has also been caught up in a web of controversies around his backing of gay rights in Zimbabwe's mainly Christian society and his multiple relationships prior to his marriage to Elizabeth Macheka.
Worse still, the MDC-T has also been rocked by factionalism before it entered the coalition government.
The factional fights within the party have continued to this day with reports suggesting that some of the party's members were defecting to other political formations.
The MDC-T's performance in the inclusive government has also been rather questionable. The issues of poor service delivery and corruption in councils are mostly attributed to the party because it is in control of most local governments countrywide.
While the MDC-T party has rubbished the results of the survey, insiders claimed the premier was quacking in his boots and considered the move a stab in the back by Freedom House, a former ally.
Luke Tamborinyoka, PM Tsvangirai's spokesperson, said Zimbabweans should brace for a proper survey when the country holds fresh polls to bring finality to the coalition government.
"With all those satellite dishes at police stations and even in army barracks, the Freedom House-sponsored survey says the State media (the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation -- ZBC -- and The Herald) are the media of choice in Zimbabwe? That Zimbabweans trust the army and the police? There will be a proper survey at the polling stations in the next 12 months and that survey will confirm that Morgan Tsvangirai is the embodiment of the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe," he said.
Obert Gutu, the MDC-T spokesperson for Harare and Deputy Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, described the survey as fundamentally flawed.
"It is the height of intellectual delinquency for any right-thinking person to argue that all of a sudden, the people of Zimbabwe now have increased faith and trust in the army, the police and the Central Intelligence Organisation as well as the Attorney General's Office.
"More poignantly, it is an unmitigated absurdity for any sane person to believe that the ZBC is the most trusted source of news in Zimbabwe," said Gutu.
He added that while the MDC-T had nothing but utmost respect for Professor Susan Booysen and her research team at Freedom House, it was his party's view that their latest survey was "hopelessly misleading, politically mischievous and horrendously misguided."
"We might have our own challenges in the MDC but the situation on the ground clearly points that we are heading for a landslide victory in the forthcoming historic general elections. ZANU-PF is incorrigibly unpopular and only a miracle, repeat a miracle, will see them win any free and fair election in Zimbabwe today, tomorrow or within the foreseeable future," said Gutu.
Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC-T spoke-sperson, said his party respects the right of individuals and institutions to carry out opinion surveys on the views of the people of Zimbabwe from time to time but the party noted that surveys carried out under current conditions were difficult to rely on due to the fact that they are held under conditions of major fluidity.
While highlighting that the MDC-T read with interest the survey by Freedom House, Mwonzora said given the margin of error acknowledged in the survey, it was difficult to rely on the document.
"We note that a lot of people interviewed refused to disclose their political preferences. This is obviously for fear of intimidation and the violence they have been subjected to by ZANU-PF and its military junta. This margin of error fundamentally impugns the conclusion that can be derived from this report," he said.
Tapera Kapuya, a Zimbabwean political analyst based in Australia, said the Freedom House report was reflective of the political realities in Zimbabwe and brought to the fore what has generally been said in hushed tones by many in the democracy movement.
Therefore, it should ring as a wake-up call for the MDC-T to reorganise itself and reinvigorate its efforts.
Kapuya said the current posturing by the party of trying to impugn the report and fault everyone but itself would not help matters.
"PM Tsvangirai must read this report as a wake-up call. This might very well be taken as an indictment on his leadership," said Kapuya.