Demystifying Mutambara – By Jonathan Moyo

Whereas President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai do indeed represent different and competing political interests in the country, and while they are indeed political principals, only someone from Mars would say the same about Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara, who clearly does not represent anyone other than his confused and clownish self perhaps and who, because he has no principles, suffers from breathtaking irresponsibility.

The height of his irresponsibility was demonstrated for the umpteenth time at the wasteful Cabinet retreat held by the office of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in Nyanga last weekend where Mutambara used a Government platform to review the Prime Minister’s failed 100-Day Action Plan to theatrically and provocatively claim yet again that the March 29, 2008 general election and June 27, 2008 Presidential run-off election were fraudulent and nullities.

Who does not know that Mutambara would not be a Deputy Prime Minister if those elections he is so wont to deride had been conclusive one way nor the other?

Looking back, Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara’s tenure in the inclusive Government over the last six months has been a catalogue of outbursts that have raised questions about his political sanity. The questions are important because, whereas there have been plenty of critical appraisals of the inclusive Government’s first six months in office, there have been virtually no focused assessments of the leadership quality of the new players in Government drawn from the two MDC formations.

Given the previously well-publicised concerns from the public about the leadership qualities of Zanu-PF Cabinet ministers some of whom have been described as "deadwood" even by President Mugabe himself, it is fitting to ask whether the new ministers from the two MDC formations have lived up to public expectations of credible leadership and whether their collective and individual performances have demonstrated better management skills than their Zanu-PF predecessors.

Even though it might be too early to judge individual ministers, it is nevertheless hard to avoid the conclusion that some of them have already behaved in ways that do not inspire public confidence in their abilities.

For example, as part of his mindless crusade to settle personal scores with the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr Gideon Gono, Minister of Finance Tendai Biti has adopted an unsettling and manifestly irresponsible "kiya-kiya" approach to fiscal policies whose consequences on the urban and rural poor has been deadly with worse to come.

Minister of Health and Child Welfare Henry Madzorera is conspicuous by his lack of presence or initiative to manage the health sector especially now that the nation faces the deadly threat of a swine flu outbreak, let alone the unresolved issues of terms and conditions of service for health workers that have forced doctors to go on strike.

Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, the Minister of Water Resources Development and Management, has been embarrassing himself and his MDC-T party not only by trampling on tender regulations in shady deals with scheming South Africans involving millions of Obama dollars but also by communicating to local authorities through the media over critical water affairs.

A Cabinet minister who thinks he or she can communicate to local councils such as the City of Harare through the Press leaves a lot to be desired.

Minister of National Housing and Social Amenities Fidelis Mhashu has been sneaking out of the country into South Africa without the knowledge of the authorities there for clandestine meetings with people claiming to be British businessmen who have undefined interests in Zimbabwe only to come back home with five stitches and bandages on his head following hospitalisation in Johannesburg after being attacked by alleged criminals under very embarrassing circumstances whose full story is yet to be told.

There are other unsavoury incidents that could be cited involving the shenanigans of new Cabinet ministers from the MDC formations but these should suffice to show that there is nothing new or inspiring about the behaviour of some of the new kids on the block in the inclusive Government. It appears that they were deadwood even before coming into life in the inclusive Government.

However, it must be said that there are some notable exceptions. To begin with, and notwithstanding that he has been dragging his feet towards standing firm against American and European illegal economic sanctions that are the single most damaging issue stifling economic and political development in Zimbabwe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai has shown that he is capable of national leadership.

In a number of defining moments when his traditional handlers have wanted and pushed him to be reckless and destructive, he has been drawn to the nationalist spirit which has tempered him against cheap populism and the demands of infantile radicals in his party.

In fact, it is now clear to discerning observers that the only thing that prevents Prime Minister Tsvangirai from becoming the true nationalist that he can be is the bad British, American and European company he has kept over the last decade or so because, left alone to his own better judgment, there would no fundamental difference between the Prime Minister and President Mugabe and a new chapter in the saga of national unity would be opened. That unity is now a possibility on the horizon and only time will define its final outcome.

What is unfortunate is that there is a spoiler on the prowl and his name is Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara. One thing that can now be concluded with certainty is that Mutambara has been the major blight on the inclusive Government’s reputation.

His behaviour since the formation of the inclusive Government on February 13, 2009 has been grotesque not least because he has used just about every speaking opportunity to present himself as a delinquent clown masquerading as a political principal.

Yet the self-evident fact which Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara has sought to hide through his attention-seeking statements that are manifestly inconsistent and insane is that, while he is a political principal on paper as per his signature on the GPA, he is not a political principal in reality on the ground.

In fact, he is a political nobody who is where he is not because of his self-imagined cleverness, which he has said is the strategy to his political madness, but because of the unfortunate naivete of ministers Welshman Ncube and Gibson Sibanda whose cowardice to take leadership when it beckoned led them to cynically hire Mutambara in the misplaced if not false name of ethnic balancing.

In a clear sign that he just does not get it, Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara has apparently not understood that he was hired to head his MDC faction not because he had any political clout or constituency but simply because of misplaced tribal politics whose authors saw him as an acceptable ethnic token.

Any other thinking person in Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara’s shoes would have understood this without being pretentious about being a true political principal.

Indeed, anyone else in his situation would have used the opportunity he has to build bridges and to quietly but effectively develop a political constituency by demonstrating technical competence to get things done in the public interest.

Instead, and to his assured downfall, Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara has abused the opportunity he has by displaying a sickening type of unprincipled and irresponsible conduct done in an arrogant manner made worse by his profound ignorance of Zimbabwean politics.

Even children can see that his regular claim that the March 29, 2008 and June 27, 2008 Presidential run-off elections were fraudulent and a nullities are naively calculated to win the hearts and minds of MDC-T supporters because he knows only too well that his own MDC formation is now history.

What Mutambara apparently does not know is that nobody in the MDC-T rank and file takes him seriously.

The consensus across the political divide is that Mutambara, who garnered a paltry 400 votes on March 29, 2008 among constituents who rightly saw him as a noisy overgrown baby who has failed to mature, is a laughing stock with no independent political clout or constituency of his own that could add value to any political party.

He also shown that he is of no use to any government. Witness how he has abused his position by being an irresponsible loudmouth that is always talking hogwash and hosting acrimonious conferences about what he says is Zimbabwe’s need for a new national vision and rebranding.

The sooner the now thoroughly discredited Deputy Prime Minister learns that Zimbabwe’s national vision and brand are rooted in the legacy of the liberation struggle and its gains of independence that better for him. Otherwise the time has come for him to just shut up and go back to the laboratory and try his luck with unthinking robots.