Mugabe defends Mutambara in meeting with Ncube

It’s being dubbed the ‘Battle of the Professors,’ as Arthur Mutambara and Welshman Ncube square up over who should be Deputy Prime Minister. The political drama intensified on Monday after Mutambara issued a statement saying he would not be resigning his post of deputy PM, to make way for Ncube the new party leader.\r\n

On Tuesday Ncube met Mugabe for two and a half hours after the normal cabinet meeting. According to MDC-N national spokesman, Nhlanhla Dube, Mugabe defended Mutambara during the meeting. The ZANU PF leader said Mutambara had told him that Ncube had hired delegates to the congress that elected him as President. We were also told Ncube spent time disputing these accusations.

At the end of the meeting Mugabe told Ncube that he would consult Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on the matter and get back to him within seven days. Last month Mugabe had also appeared to side with Mutambara, saying removing him creates legal complications and “it’s up to him if he wants to resign, but if he refuses, well, we are stuck.” Other reports suggested ZANU PF is courting Mutambara to join the party.

SW Radio Africa understands the MDC-N are already laying the groundwork to expel Mutambara from the party, during a National Council meeting that will be held in Harare on Thursday. They reportedly plan on charging him with openly defying a party directive to step down as deputy Prime Minister to make way for Ncube. They hope the expulsion will force Mugabe’s hand to swear-in Ncube.

But with a group of rebels still challenging the validity of the congress that elected Ncube, the legal minefield is growing. Mutambara on Monday said he did not recognize Ncube as party leader and would wait for the High Court to make a ruling on the matter. Those sponsoring the court challenge say Mutambara is still their legitimate leader, showing that there are two factions, of the faction.

Nhlanhla Dube accused Mutambara of being ‘ill-advised’ by forces bent on seeing the destruction of the party. He said the u-turn by Mutambara to hang on to the deputy premiership tempts them “to believe that notion which claimed Mutambara was an MDC leader playing the chief striker’s position for ZANU PF and President Mugabe.”

MDC-N Deputy Secretary for Information Kurauone Chihwayi issued a statement saying; “Mutambara attended the National council meeting of the 7th of January 2011 and also the congress on 8th and 9th January 2011 and formally stood down as party President at that congress. We also wish to state that it is the party that which nominated and seconded Mutambara to the position of Deputy Prime Minister and hence find it strange in the extreme that he now thinks that he can occupy the same position without the blessing of the party."

Mutambara however said he attended the controversial congress to use the platform to stress the need for healing in the party and to have all the grievances addressed.

“I was silent until today, because I was hoping that those claiming party leadership would be creative and magnanimous, and follow through and heal the Party as I had suggested. The opposite has happened. Those who are claiming leadership started victimizing the aggrieved leaders and party cadres (seizing party assets from them, removing them from national programs such as COPAC, etc).”

There is intense speculation over Mugabe’s motive in defending Mutambara to remain as deputy Prime Minister. The Financial Gazette reported last month that ZANU PF was courting Mutambara to join the party and ZANU PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo even said the robotics professor was welcome to ‘rejoin’ the party.

Another motive could be to play on the perceived acrimony between Ncube and Tsvangirai, with Mugabe reportedly saying he wants to consult the PM on the matter. -SW Radio