Mutambara: Accidental Leader and Stuntman

THERE is something conspicuously shady about Arthur Mutambara, the beleaguered and deserted leader of an increasingly irrelevant fringe political party which, in essence, is closing shop.


His splinter party, MDC-M, is notorious for ungraciously entering Zimbabwe’s politics through the backdoor. But how the inclusive government incidentally ended up rewarding Mutambara as deputy prime minister for representing a microscopic constituency remains a mystery.

 

At a recent retreat in Nyanga which brought together the bellicose parties to the inclusive government together, Mutambara engaged in feigned and belated outrage about Zimbabwe’s 2008 presidential elections, months after he was politically rehabilitated. He apparently infuriated Zanu PF, the rigging party, when he described the elections as “fraudulent and a nullity”.

It is saddening to note that Mutambara’s latest stunt has been particularly misunderstood by many as sincere. For starters, we all know the election was stolen. Fair enough. But the election was surely not stolen from Mutambara. We also know that Mutambara does not speak for the original MDC.

Zanu PF is aware of that fact. So for Zanu PF ministers to be seen boycotting such a meeting of national consequence because a stuntman like Mutambara enraged them is pure theatrics!

Notwithstanding that nonsensical posturing, Zanu PF must not forget that it was the taxpayer’s money which funded such an excursion in the first place. Zanu PF ministers knew very well that they had nothing to offer. So they would rather punish the whole nation because of Mutambara’s so called provocation? Since the inclusive government came into existence, Zimbabwe has dragged on because it is still constipated by Zanu PF.

It is political suicide for Zanu PF to continue to treat the MDC-T as a nuisance rather than a partner at a time Zimbabweans are fully behind MDC-T’s efforts to help clean up the mess Mugabe and colleagues created. The MDC-T must remain resolute in pushing the reform agenda as Mutambara’s cloned party continues to self-destruct.

If anything, this latest debacle gives Zimbabweans every reason to believe that Mutambara is indeed a plant. Intriguingly, Mugabe has always acted graciously towards this restless and clumsy meddler, whom he previously described as a “good” man. Upon South Africa President Jacob Zuma’s first state visit to Zimbabwe, a week after the incident, Mugabe was quick to single out Mutambara as the progressive force of the inclusive government. How ironic!

It is not in Mugabe’s nature to treat those who disagree with him kindly. Any slightest provocation is guaranteed to invite scornful vilification. In the recent past, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Condoleeza Rice, Jendai Frazer and US Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson were rebuked as “saboteur”, “slave”, “prostitute” and “an idiot”, respectively.

Mutambara’s positions mirror those of Mugabe, the man behind his political fortunes. For instance, on land policy, Mutambara recently stated that there is “no going back on our revolution” even though it is clear that the vast majority of the confiscated land now constitutes multiple farm ownership by Mugabe, his cronies and their offspring. Land grab immensely profited Mugabe’s minions and sycophants. Land was used as a bounty for those who commanded brutalisation of innocent civilians.

Also worrisome is the fact that Mutambara seems to wield so much political power (real or imaginary) to the extent that he has acted as GNU spokesperson on numerous occasions. The most evident and disturbing press release reflected his desire to hang on to power through the GNU for an additional five years, unelected. For someone who cannot survive outside of political patronage, it’s understandable.

“After the constitutional review process, the principals would then meet to decide if there is need to go for elections but I do not see us going for elections in the next five years as long as things are going well for the country,” said Mutambara, never mind his comprehension of democracy. The scariest thing is that behind Mutambara looms the spectre of dictatorship, the very cause of Zimbabwe’s misery.

“I am going to remove Mugabe, I promise you, with every tool available,” said Mutambara, in 2006. No one knows what happened to those assurances, nor has Mutambara swallowed them back considering that he now calls Mugabe a hero. “I was asking President Mugabe, where is your biography, when are you finishing your book. What is wrong with you?” said Mutambara, recently.

It is not surprising that new dictionaries will have the face of Mutambara’s hero next to the word “dictator”. Calling Mugabe a hero is as ridiculous as calling George Bush a hero given his Katrina and Iraqi legacy.

For now, the people of Zimbabwe are wise enough to detect Mutambara and Mugabe’s simulated animosities. The Mutambara-led split from the original MDC had all the fingerprints of Zanu PF whose hallmark has been the politics of infiltration or elimination. Zimbabwe would have paid a dear price if Morgan Tsvangirai had not stood firm to unify the people’s party.

MDC saved Zimbabwe from total collapse even though the trauma and scars of the Zanu PF tragedy remain indelibly visible economically, socially and politically. If Mugabe had vanished when the people resoundingly rejected him a long time ago, Zimbabwe would never have suffered such crises.

A sustained campaign of violence powered by an everlasting supply of recruits breathed life into the dictatorship. It’s almost as if unemployment was deliberately designed to create a reservoir of militias, both young and old. The long suffering people still voted him out even as militias were pointing guns to their heads.

Recently, things got very interesting when Mutambara and Jonathan Moyo, the “nutty” professors who fumbled their way into Zimbabwe’s politics, were at each other’s throat. Somewhere, their godfather Mugabe, must have been laughing. Only Mugabe can resurrect Mutambara from current opprobrium and well-deserved withering of his ill-gotten political fortunes.

Mutambara’s ineptness does not appear to be the only motivation for his MPs’ discontent. He remains a self-deluding neophyte who exudes political incompetence and immaturity. Even the unstable Job Sikhala, in spite of his volcanic temperament and crazy boisterousness, still scores more political points than Mutambara. How Mutambara is handling the ongoing crisis in his party amplifies poor leadership and political naiveté. Maybe its time Mutambara rents some thinkers who know political strategy.

By-elections are likely to be held soon for his three deposed MPs and in many other constituencies. But it is a fait accompli that the seats will go to the original MDC as long as the elections are free and fair. Even as Mutambara unscrupulously works in cahoots with Zanu PF to help create a Zanu PF majority in parliament, it remains a perilous political strategy for Mutambara.

This isn’t just suspicion. It smacks as yet another ploy by Mugabe to expand his MP base for a majority in parliament so as to “nuke” or rape the constitutional rewriting process. The increased wanton incarcerations of MDC MPs help debunk the plot.

In all this, the hard reality is that at a national level, Mutambara and Moyo will forever grapple with unpopularity and rejection. In a democratic environment, their existence would be very complicated. No matter how much Mutambara and Moyo attempt to socially reconstruct their political relevance in Zimbabwe, public opinion will take light-years to shift in their favour.

Dr Paul Mutuzu can be contacted at nvinstitute@aol.com.

Paul Mutuzu