DEPUTY Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara risks losing both his current post and the Regional Integration portfolio if he does not resign and take up his new appointment, top officials in the smaller MDC party said yesterday.
Authoritative MDC sources told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that attempts by President Robert Mugabe to shelter Mutambara saying he could not swear-in newly elected MDC president Welshman Ncube would force the party to recall the DPM from parliament.
They said Ncube would have informed Mugabe, who has been out of the country, by next week of the proposed reshuffle. The DPM has already been formally informed of the re-assignment.
“If Mutambara refuses to go or rather take up a ministerial post, then the party’s national council will meet and formally inform the speaker of parliament that Mutambara no longer represents the interests of MDC,” said a top official in Ncube’s faction. “In simple terms, we will be forced to fire Mutambara if he tries to resist the people’s will expressed at the congress. He can’t subvert a template of the will of the people.”
Only members of parliament are allowed to assume positions in government, therefore if Mutambara loses his seat, it means he can no longer be holding the deputy premier’s post.
The MDC official said once Mutambara is kicked out of parliament Mugabe could not protect him because it would be a clear case of the executive interfering with the legislature, thereby infringing on the separation of powers.
Mutambara, who is still to speak out publicly about his future plans, has been one of the principals since the inception of the inclusive government two years ago until last month when Ncube outmanoeuvred him.
After the MDC’s standing committee, which met after the January congress, the party resolved to appoint Ncube as the new DPM, replacing Mutambara who was then assigned to the Regional Integration ministry, which was occupied by Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, who is now set to take over from Ncube — the current minister of Industry and Commerce.
Mugabe announced that he could not swear-in Ncube unless Mutambara resigns of his own accord as deputy premier.
But top MDC insiders said Mutambara indicated to his confidants that he would not step down because the Global Political Agreement (GPA) is silent on how deputy prime ministers are appointed or fired from office.
The September 15 2008 GPA only mentions that ministers can be reshuffled at the behest of their respective political parties.
MDC officials said a DPM was merely a senior minister who falls into the category of cabinet ministers and was not immune to reshuffle.
MDC officials said if Mugabe and his Zanu PF henchmen want to protect the DPM against the will of his party where he is an ordinary member, then the former ruling party should rope him into its structures.
The source said top MDC members were now convinced that Mugabe’s utterances in support of Mutambara and what the DPM has been quoted as saying in sympathy with Zanu PF was a clear indication that the DPM was “a surrogate of Zanu PF”.
“The cat is now out of the bag. Efforts by Mugabe to protect him show that he is their man. Therefore Zanu PF can’t have two principals in government,” said the source.
The MDC official added that Mugabe who accepted MDC-T’s reshuffle last year should also accept the changes to be implemented by Ncube’s party, unless the ageing leader’s resistance has tribal undertones of keeping Ncube and other Ndebeles as underlings.
“As underpinned by the GPA, the deployment of cadres is the sole prerogative of the party; no party can veto another’s decisions. Mugabe can’t determine what happens in the MDC,” said the source. “If Mugabe accepted MDC-T’s reshuffle last year, why can’t he also accept our proposals.
“People in Matabeleland also view Mugabe’s attempts to bar Ncube from assuming a top office as continued segregation against the Ndebeles. Zanu PF is trying to bar Ndebeles from enjoying mainstream government positions; that may raise tribal tensions.”
However, presidential spokesperson George Charamba has refuted allegations that Mugabe was sheltering Mutambara, saying there were legal issues that made it difficult for the president to swear Ncube into office as deputy prime minister.
“It is not the business of the president to use his powers as an appointing authority to resolve the problems of a political party,” he said adding that: “The congress yielded a contested leadership and that is not President Mugabe’s problem.”
The deposed MDC leader was reportedly offered a soft landing by Misihairabwi-Mushonga in June last year to become deputy president of the party and remain as deputy prime minister in the inclusive government but he declined insisting that the party must not “subvert democracy”.
MDC spokesman Nhlanhla Dube said the party had not yet come up with an official position regarding the debate around the future of Mutambara
“We will know the way forward after president Ncube has met Mugabe. For now people are just speculating,” he said.
Efforts to get a comment from Mutambara were fruitless as his mobile numbers were not reachable.