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Lies, damned lies and statistics

IT is amazing how the mention of a number or percentage will cause belief in the most ridiculous statements. This is probably because a lot of us are not very good with numbers, so are in awe of those who sprinkle their conversation with them. The numbers convince us that this person is educated and has all the facts at his/her fingertips. Since this is so, we suspend our own powers of reason, believe what we are told, and even proceed to pass the information on to others.

A current frightening example of this is the “fact” doing the rounds that the more candidates that stand against Zanu PF, the better, because Mugabe needs 51% to win the election. The reasoning is that one opponent might only get 40% of the vote, but if you have three or four opposition candidates in every constituency, their aggregate is likely to be more than 51%.

The problem is that this is indeed true of the presidential election, where Mugabe does need to win 51% of the vote, and three credible opposition candidates might deprive him of that. But this is only part of the truth. For parliament and councils, it is the candidate who wins most votes, whether 51% or lower, who will win that seat. So if you have three opposition candidates against one Zanu PF candidate, it is indisputable that the three opposition candidates will split the opposition vote between them.

This is precisely why we in the Mutambara group have been trying to get all the opposition parties and groups together so that we have one opposition candidate against one Zanu PF candidate in every constituency and ward. Ordinary people understand this clearly. That is why they were pleading for two years with the two MDC formations to come together to avoid splitting the vote, and that is why they are now so angry with the MDC, especially with the Morgan Tsvangirai group who rejected the second attempt at reuniting. It should be recognised that the Mutambara group adopted the agreement, the second time it has done so but been rejected by the other side.

On the issue of splitting the vote, again there is a strange “fact” going around that Simba Makoni has been put in by Zanu PF to split the opposition vote. The real fact is that it is Morgan Tsvangirai who is splitting the opposition vote, because his group has refused to make an electoral pact with either Mutambara or Makoni. He claims his group can oust Mugabe on their own, whereas all they will succeed in doing is to ensure that Mugabe wins this election because of a divided opposition. What play with numbers could possibly come up with a different result?

Another “fact” is that Makoni was Zanu PF during Gukurahundi, so he is responsible, because he did nothing to stop it. It is also an indisputable fact that Tsvangirai was a member of Zanu PF during Gukurahundi, and we have no record of any attempt on his part to stop it. So was Roy Bennett – who remained a member of Zanu PF until May 2000.

I urge every loyal Zimbabwean who wants positive change for this country to do their own bit to persuade the Tsvangirai group of the necessity of having only one opposition candidate against one Zanu PF candidate in every constituency and ward in the forthcoming election. It is still not too late. — By Trudy Stevenson

*Stevenson is the MP for Harare North.

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