End game for Mutambara?

“HE has a good history as a student leader but will need time to grow into the position of national leader;” that was political scientist Brian Raftopoulos’ evaluation of robotics professor, Aurthur Mutambara at the time he rose to lead one of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) factions.

That was six years ago. 

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Jurists are still out on whether he has indeed matured from student politics to become a national leader. 

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His admirers say he has crossed that benchmark while critics argue that he still has the traits of student activism not needed in national politics. 

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They point to his recent chanting at a local hotel after being denied audience with South African President Jacob Zuma as a case in point. 

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Mutambara reportedly left the hotel chanting “Maputo, Maputo, Maputo” in reference to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit held over the weekend. 

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His detractors say the behaviour he displayed was not expected from a national leader aspiring to become President of the country.

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Now, events of the past week threaten to throw him into the dustbin of political “have-beens”.

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Although the High Court had ruled in favour of Welshman Ncube as the duly elected leader of the smaller MDC, until last week Mutambara had been treated as a Deputy Prime Minister and principal of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which he co-signed with President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

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That Zuma refused to accommodate Mutambara when he came last Wednesday for consultations with the GPA principals raised eyebrows amongst some.

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ZANU-PF politburo member Jonathan Moyo has accused Zuma of plotting to install Ncube as a GPA principal and described the move as “illegal, unconstitutional, intrusive and impolitic”.

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Mutambara has also accused Zuma of undermining Zimbabwe’s Constitution.

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“He (Zuma) came to Harare and unilaterally decided that Ncube is the MDC principal and that the MDC congress was valid and yet the matter is still pending before the Supreme Court which is the final legal authority,” he said.

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But Ncube’s faction of the MDC was not fazed pointing out that they impressed upon Zuma that there are two court decisions against Mutambara. 

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Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, the secretary general of Ncube’s MDC, charged last week that recognising Mutambara was a violation of the GPA.

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When Zuma’s position was upheld by other SADC leaders at the weekend, it left Mutambara with egg on his face.

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The SADC leaders passed a resolution that referred to Ncube as the GPA principal representing the smaller faction of the MDC and had no place for Mutambara. 

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Although the robotics professor still has a pending court case where he is claiming the MDC leadership, some have already started to write the verses of the epitaph to his political grave.

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This group of analysts say Ncube invited Mutambara over to the MDC and was now taking over what rightfully belongs to him. 

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They claim Mutambara lost at the national congress which elected Ncube and so should do the honourable thing; step aside!

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Greg Linington, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe agrees that Mutambara should let the will of the people decide. 

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“I think that Ncube is the leader of that group. A current High Court decision exists and until the Supreme Court has ruled otherwise, he should respect that,” said Linington in a telephone interview.

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Linington said the fight between Ncube and Mutambara was an internal issue which should not involve other political parties. He said an elective congress had chosen Ncube and other parties to the GPA should respect that decision.

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But another political science lecturer, Charity Manyeruke took a swipe at the SADC decision saying it was tantamount to interference in the country’s internal matters.

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“He is a signatory to the GPA. The courts are still deciding . . . It is not right to have internal issues decided by outsiders. We should resolve these issues internally. What are the courts saying? The way we are letting SADC decide for us is not right. We can’t always be referring issues to SADC — it does not reflect well on us as Zimbabweans,” said Manyeruke.

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Yet reports in some media suggest Mutambara’s fate was being decided on a dinner table between in-laws, Ncube and Zuma.Ncube’s son is married to one of Zuma’s daughters.

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But are personal relations coming into play? Both Manyeruke and Linington dismissed such claims.

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“I don’t know if that plays a part at all. Ncube is the leader of that group based on the group’s decision not his relations to Zuma. 

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“I wouldn’t know if relations weighed in his favour,” said Linington.

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“Those are only allegations because personal issues would come in, regional issues would come in, a lot of things would have been considered that is why I say these issues should be handled internally,” said Manyeruke.

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So, is it end game for Mutambara? 

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“No,he should remain calm. He is a force in the political sphere,” said Manyeruke who emphasised that the robotics professor should wait for the Supreme Court decision.

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But Linington said since it is clear that the smaller MDC chose Ncube, Mutambara should respect that decision and move on.

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Mutambara ran in 2008 parliamentary elections for the Zengeza East constituency, but came third, with 1 322 votes, according to official results, behind the candidate of the Tsvangirai faction, who won 7 570 votes, and the ZANU-PF candidate, who won 3 042 votes.

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It never rains, but pours for Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Arthur Mutambara and his political grouping.

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Together with his contemporaries, the robotics professor’s political career appears to be on the rocks, and for now it seems they are living on borrowed power thanks to ZANU-PF’s benevolence.

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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) left Mutambara gasping for a political lifeline last week, saying it only recognises leaders of political parties, President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube. 

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Even though the Global Political Agreement (GPA) names President Mugabe and the premier as the Head of State and Prime Minister respectively, the positions of vice presidents and deputy premiers are left open.

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“(1) there shall be a President, which Office shall continue to be occupied by President Robert Gabriel Mugabe. (2) There shall be two (2) Vice Presidents, who will be nominated by the President and/or ZANU-PF. (3) There shall be a Prime Minister, which Office shall be occupied by Mr Morgan Tsvangirai. (4)

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There shall be two (2) Deputy Prime Ministers, one (1) from MDC-T and one (1) from the MDC-M,” says the agreement.

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Mutambara has so far lost the first round of the leadership fight in the High court and his appeal to the Supreme Court awaits a judgment. 

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This is ironic for a man who in his 2006 inaugural speech outlined a vision where there should be free and competitive elections for all party positions and open primaries for all national institutions with term limits strictly adhered to.

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The youthful professor, who spoke like a man destined to claim a high place in history now risks failing to leave clear marks on the country’s political landscape due to the messy power struggle. 

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In the court of public opinion, Mutambara has joined the league of African leaders, who fight to the end, to let go everything and anything else, except power.

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With SADC and the first court ruling going against him, and with no representatives in Parliament nor among the GPA and COPAC negotiators, Mutambara appears incapable of outshining his fellow professor.

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Frank Chamunorwa, a senior member of the MDC wrote on his facebook wall that Mutambara’s tribulations are a lesson that one must never be invited to join politics.

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“As for AGO Mutambara there is still a chance to salvage titbits of decency and integrity by exiting the political arena quietly albeit with piece of advice; never get invited into politics you fight your way into politics lest you get booted out,” said Chamunorwa. 

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When Mutambara took over the MDC formation’s leadership in 2006 following the split in the united MDC over the question of participating in the previous year’s senatorial polls, the DPM said had he been around during the time of the acrimonious split, he would have fought tooth, nail and claw to win in the battle of ideas and in the event of a defeat, he would have submitted to the collective decision. 

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Ironically, five years down the line, Mutambara initially supported Ncube’s ascension to the top, only to backtrack, plunging the formation into turmoil that led to a split similar to the one that saw him being invited to lead. 

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Thus, his fantasy of faction-free politics now lies in ruins.

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Also, in his 2006 acceptance speech, the DPM promised to tackle ZANU-PF saying there will “be no compromise, retreat, nor surrender”.

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He also said PM Tsvangirai was a hero, but he now appears to have ingratiated himself more and well with President Mugabe and ZANU-PF. Mutambara also pledged to work towards the unification of the MDC.

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On the whole, all the promises in that acceptance speech remain largely unfulfilled. He is now a pale shadow of the politician who projected himself as a figure concerned with the bigger picture.

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Some now view him in the same light of the lesser men of politics who are concerned with self-preservation. An eloquent speaker, the DPM appears not to have grasped the difference between rhetoric and reality.

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Political analyst, Ricky Mukonza said Mutambara is now showing his true colours as an opportunist. He said Mutambara’s days maybe numbered as his group does not have a constituency.

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Mukonza added that when he was inaugurated as the party’s president Mutambara thought there was a chance of the two parties getting united and that way he would occupy a powerful position in a much stronger and united MDC. – The Financial Gazette