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Editor’s Memo: Mutambara Kingmaker

DEPUTY Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara is an unwanted interference in the government of national unity.

He is disliked by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC and equally vilified by those in Zanu PF. However, in the numbers game which will soon play out in parliament, both parties would require support from the MDC-M to shore up their figures in the House.

Elsewhere in this paper we carry the story of an attack on Mutambara by the MDC-T leadership at a rally in Chitungwiza last Sunday.

The attack was prompted by accusations that Mutambara at the Sadc troika summit in Maputo last week sided with President Mugabe in claiming that sanctions were an outstanding issue in the implementation of the GPA and that Tsvangirai was running a parallel government. This, Tsvangirai’s MDC concluded, had made Mutambara an extension of Zanu PF.

At the weekend Mugabe travelled to Egypt for the Sino-Africa summit accompanied by ministers from Mutambara’s faction of the MDC and none from Tsvangirai’s party; a sure way of confirming the MDC-M/Zanu PF alliance.

The Chitungwiza attack is one of many skirmishes between Tsvangirai and Mutambara since the breakaway of 2005.

While Mutambara is loathed by Tsvangirai’s MDC, he is regarded as a source of irritation by Zanu PF.

In the eyes of Mugabe’s party, he is a disrespectful and arrogant upstart who should forever be thankful to Mugabe for appointing him deputy prime minister.

From this vilification, Mutambara could take heart in that he may want to regard himself as not an appendage of either of the two larger political parties.

Occasionally, to demonstrate that he is his own man, he has fired salvos at Mugabe and his party for winning an election which was a “fraud and a fuss”. He has also had a go at Tsvangirai whom he has branded a “weak and indecisive leader”.

All this makes him neither a friend of either party but what is obvious though is that the current power matrix in parliament makes the position of Mutambara not just critical, but strategic in the passage of Bills, especially in the lower house.

The MDC currently has 98 members in the House of Assembly and Zanu PF is precariously close on 97.

Mutambara’s MDC has seven seats which can make or break either party’s aspirations in the passage of contentious legislation like the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill which went through its second reading this week.

Tsvangirai’s MDC which sponsored the Bill through Finance minister Tendai Biti will require the support of the MDC-M for the Bill to safely pass through the lower House. How then does Biti seek to steer the bill if his party attacks the MDC-M leader?

The answer is obvious here. The MDC-T is banking on the MDC-M’s pro-democracy credentials to support legislation in the arm-wrestling with Zanu PF.

In this vein, Mutambara’s party is expected to support amendments to the RBZ bill and the Public Order and Security Act and the impending Freedom of Information legislation.

The plan could be to alienate Mutambara from MPs in his party and ensure that they vote with MDC-T. The same was achieved in August last year — when buoyed by the backing of nine MDC-M MPs — MDC-T’s Lovemore Moyo was elected Speaker of the House of Assembly.

Wily foxes in Zanu PF are also seeing an opportunity in this. The attack on Mutambara by Tsvangirai and Biti on Sunday is the tonic they require for their anti-democracy crusade.

In politics, it should be noted that nothing is obvious and positions are not always cast in stone. Professor Jonathan Moyo’s rejoining of Zanu PF is a case in point.

There is therefore no guarantee that Mutambara’s MPs will vote with Tsvangirai’s MDC in critical matters. The influence wielded by the seven MDC-M MPs can therefore never be underestimated. They could be the difference between democratic reform and the perpetuation of Zanu PF demagoguery. It could be the difference between national progress and a return to the dark days of hardship.

Therefore it is critical that Tsvangirai understands this rather banal factor in the current power balance. He can only ignore it at the risk of sabotaging the reform movement in this country.

To illustrate this, it is important to revisit events leading up to the Presidential elections in March last year.

Tsvangirai did not see the need to work with Mutambara in the presidential election. Mutambara joined forces with Simba Makoni. This Makoni/Mutambara alliance, it turned out, was the difference between Tsvangirai getting the majority required to win the poll and avoiding a run off.

Frankly, I think it makes sense to avoid political labels and for the MDCs to forge a working alliance. Public attacks on Mutambara — (I do not discount his weaknesses here) do not solve the country’s problems or ensure the full implementation of the GPA. The thrust should be to make Mugabe reform and not flaunt egotist credentials.

“After the game (of chess), the king and the pawn go into the same box.” — Italian Proverb.


Vincent Kahiya, Editor

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