AS a former teacher whose students aspired to the same heights as NASA scientists — whatever their field — as a mother whose son is scarcely younger than Arthur Mutambara, and as a Zimbabwean who has been searching for someone to lead us out of the
darkness into the promised land we have all longed for since the liberation war years, I must say that I am both astonished and horrified by the reaction to Mutambara’s academic background and arrival on the Zimbabwe political scene.
I believe that we need to open up our hearts and minds to those we have nurtured — and who better than a son of our own soil, a home-grown Rhodes and Fulbright scholar?
Rhodes scholarships are not two-a-penny, nor are they for the narrow academic. They are awarded to people considered capable of becoming future leaders in the global sense.
Among Rhodes scholars we find Edward de Bono (parallel thinking), astronomer Hubble, former UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali as well as some Zimbabweans.
Likewise, Fulbright scholarships (Fulbright was himself a Rhodes scholar), like being appointed a Martin Luther King professor, is an honour many Zimbabweans would surely be proud of.
This should give us a hint that Mutambara is no ordinary man. But the hysteria over his area of specialisation — robotics and rocket science — is frankly shameful.
It betrays an ignorance I do not believe Zimbabwe is guilty of, and I would therefore plead with my fellow Zimbabweans to think again before dismissing the usefulness of robotics in Zimbabwe — not to mention the capacity of a brain so trained to apply itself to other areas.
My own brother studied robotics — it is simply the science of creating machines which use artificial intelligence to carry out tasks normally done by human beings. Computerised car factories are a prime example of robotics in action. I am not sure that the “one-armed bandits” in casinos are another less salubrious example!
Would we be happier if he had degrees in violence, which another Zimbabwean boasts about? Or perhaps we would prefer someone who simply boasts of being the MDC, and of holding the key to the party?
Cultures differ over titles received and used.
In Italy people will call you Dottore or Ingegnere if you are merely a professional. American PhDs style themselves professor, while in Zimbabwe former ambassadors insist on retaining the title ambassador!
In the global village, perhaps anything goes, so I fail to see why there is such anger over “professor”.
His own combative style and seething anger have also been attacked, but this is entirely justified in the face of the regime’s dirty tricks and its criminal failure to care for its people.
As for NASA, the Rotary exchange student rooming next to my daughter at UCT was a NASA administrator. That did not make him an American spy, but it did reflect his social and academic standing as an outstanding young person, because NASA can take its pick from the cream all over the world.
I believe that Zimbabwe should be proud to have a son of our soil working for NASA, for however short a period and in whatever capacity. That is exactly the level we believe our own citizens are capable of — and the level we encourage our children to attain internationally.
So what is wrong with Mutambara having succeeded in that endeavour? We should all be celebrating, not looking for skeletons in his cupboard!
I believe Mutambara has many positive secrets he has not yet shared with us. A Namibian athlete told me recently that she knows him as a supporter and funder for the Special Olympics, but he has not even mentioned this, so far.
Gaudeamus igitur! Let us therefore praise famous Zimbabweans and rejoice that one of our own illustrious sons has been brave and patriotic enough to come back home to take up our liberation struggle for the new Zimbabwe of freedom, justice, equality, solidarity and democracy. It was long overdue.
MDC MP and Secretary for
Policy and Research,