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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

EITHER KEEP QUIET OR ACCEPT: ‘You Cannot Be Too Intelligent With Afrobarometer’

By Hope Mezuwa

I understand AfroBarometer Survey results are out. One variable that has been analyzed has revealed that “if Malawians voted today, a significant majority would vote for Democratic Progressive Party-DPP”. The Malawi Congress Party-MCP and UTM are distantly behind.

Like always, attacking and self-defense is always the tempting option especially when you’re aggrieved by the results or you sympathize with the party not favoured by the results of AfroBarometer. You’ll always have the urge to find fault or blame. Perhaps it’s in the nature of politics. But also it hurts when you’re a beneficiary.

When AfroBarometer was just coming on the scenes a few years ago, it was attacked left, right and centre. It was mostly its sample size that people drilled holes in. Misinformed non-statisticians, overzealous party fanatics and propagandists often chose to wonder how interviews with less than 2,400 people can be used to predict election outcomes of over 6million voters.

They kept questioning its methodology and called the researchers all sorts of names: from disgruntled academicians to half-baked university products. It was until they realized that 98% of the predictions were consistently coming out correct. That was now humbling. And the trend has continued with results maintaining the accuracy and precision against all odd. Now it’s un undisputable household name.

I think in our case the most controversial forecast that has ever been made was in 2014 that APM would win power as an opposition candidate to become Malawi’s president. The Joyce Banda regime quashed this to the core. Everyone not in touch with the reality on the ground found this forecast faulty and impossible. But what happened later? It came to pass just like that. AfroBarometer had announced way ahead of time.

You cannot be too intelligent with AfroBarometer. You cannot be throwing in your political opinions lacking rigour to discredit credible scientific procedures and outcomes. You come out embarrassed in the end. Even the highly acclaimed propagandists Dr Hetherwick Ntaba and Mr Nicholas Dausi respected AfroBarometer results. Experience had taught them. Either keep quiet or accept, change and wait for time to deliver its verdict.

I have since learnt that the best public relations response to any AfroBarometer report is “we have read the report, we thank everyone who recognized our efforts to improve Malawi. We will work hard to address the areas we are not doing well”. Full-stop. Don’t be too smart.

For this report in particular, I think the best winner is President Chakwera. Those around the president should even encourage him to invite the researchers to present the findings at the StateHouse board-room.

This is a great opportunity to get a feel of the reality on the ground, brainstorm and devise strategies to improve satisfaction. He is one president who accommodates criticism and is happy to face critics. This is his chance to know what perhaps has been hidden from him for 2years.

MCP has a whole 3 years to get back to the drawing board and work on the areas the majority are not happy with. These are not Yes-Bwana researchers. They’re not “the-people-surrounding-him” people. They will give the president constructive criticism he needs the most to win hearts. They win or lose nothing in doing that.


It’s clear from the results that UTM is bruised and is almost on its death-bed. It will take a lot to rise again. It’s quiet probable that the Sattar report was so damning that they lost one or two sympathizers. But also, I think that UTM leadership has not done much lately to demonstrate relevance and visibility on the ground. That’s the cost.

I am of the view that DPP has a reason to be happy but not to get too excited. You always feel good when, while down, someone is still affectionate about you. But there is no need to be complacent. The in-house fights are evidently self-destroying. You slacken, you lose the gains.

At the end of the day, AfroBarometer has not predicted about 2025. It’s an imagination of “what-if-now”? If nothing changes in the lives of the people and things that people value the most, nothing might change with this prediction in 2025. There’s a whole lot time to listen and change.

Bottom lines:

  1. We’re not on a Ballot box queue; we can only be there three years away from today.
  2. While the goodwill of Malawians can be abused, it can also be lost, regained and nurtured.
  3. How you respond is what matters the most, not really what they say.
  4. MCP and UTM are products of demonstrations and court justice.
  5. MCP and UTM elections were a vindication of an AfroBarometer poll prediction.
  6. If nothing changes even 50+1 cannot be a defensive weapon. 50+1 builds on individual party strengths and strategic steps of party leaders.

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