Wantend: unit to winch us out of this quagmire

PROFESSOR Arthur Mutambara, elected to head an MDC faction last weekend, has entered a political minefield in which he has to be nimble-footed to avoi

d the inherent hazards associated with active politics in this country.

Mutambara’s new team spoke of the need for an ideological redefinition among Zimbabweans. His charm offensive saw him attacking the British for reneging on the Lancaster House agreement. He also opened up on white commercial farmers for resisting land reform.

Not many among his peers at the high table expected this dated discourse from the good professor who could quickly find himself a hostage to fortune.

Already, he is a target of savage attacks from foes in the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC which has not only dismissed him as a non-event, but also sees the faction he now leads as hirelings of the Zanu PF government.

The government-controlled media over the weekend was quick to draw parallels between Mutambara’s sentiments with those of President Robert Mugabe on land, sovereignty and relations with the West.

While the government press this week fired their opening salvoes at Mutambara, portraying him as an appendage of the West, the professor stands to suffer more damage to his political career if he receives the tacit blessing of the ruling order which sees Tsvangirai as the real enemy.

Zanu PF will obviously seek to cast doubts in the minds of those who were beginning to warm up to the new leader. He cannot avoid this tide of criticism because it comes with the territory he is now occupying, but his survival in politics depends on what tag sticks.

Currently, there are a number of them. He is portrayed in some circles as the Shona face of a Ndebele-dominated faction. He is regarded as an overgrown student leader trying his hand at national politics.

There are some who like to think that Mutambara is a Zanu PF plant brought in to read the last rites of a flailing opposition movement. He is also seen as a CIA agent because of his links to NASA.

All these tags could be dismissed as spiteful nonsense aimed at achieving partisan ends. But a painful fact that Mutambara must live with is that like Tsvangirai, he remains the leader of an MDC faction. It is important for him to create his own image and use that to market his ideas. This could be an insuperable task as long as the party remains divided and open to manipulation by Zanu PF government functionaries.
Put simply, the opposition in Zimbabwe is no stronger because of the entry of Mutambara into the political fray as long as there is no unity in the MDC.

The Tsvangirai camp, by virtue of a High Court ruling last year, would like to regard itself as the genuine MDC. Last weekend this faction’s spokesman Nelson Chamisa rather sarcastically put out a statement to welcome the Mutambara-led faction “to the turbulent political scene in Zimbabwe as we continue our struggle to dislodge the Zanu PF dictatorship”.

He advised the grouping “to urgently look for a new name so that they are not confused with the Movement for Democratic Change founded by the working people of this country led by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions”.

He concluded his statement by saying: “The struggle that we have is about removing a dictatorship and resolving the crisis of governance in our country in order to usher in a new Zimbabwe and a new beginning governed by a people-driven democratic national constitution. The people’s project is unstoppable.”

Not at the moment. The public are inclined to say “a pox on both your houses”.

Ken Saro Wiwa’s view, from another African context, aptly captures the state of the opposition project at the moment: “The transition has been described as a train, and is said to be on course. I disagree.

The train is rusty and stands in the station; its route is strewn with danger, the passengers in the train are suffering and hungry, the majority of passengers and their goods are not on board…”

That’s where we are right now. Stuck in the station. And without unity, Mutambara and his redundant rhetoric will only compound the crisis.

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