The battle has been characterised by fierce rhetoric, court challenges, dismissals and counter-dismissals and emerging creepy political alliances in which President Robert Mugabe seems to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Mutambara.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai apparently remains neutral despite naturally having his own views and position on the issue.
Zimbabwe Independent Assistant Editor Dumisani Muleya (DM) interviewed Welshman Ncube (WN) on Wednesday to get a deeper insight into the political cauldron that his party has become of late. Below are excerpts of the interview.
DM: Professor Ncube, you are currently locked in a power struggle with Professor Mutambara following your disputed party congress and the election of the new leadership led by yourself and recommendations of changes in government. To deal with these issues you met President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday, how did the meeting go?
WN: Yes, I met President Mugabe at his government offices on Tuesday afternoon after cabinet and we discussed for two and a half hours these issues. The president has formal power in terms of the constitution to swear-in and remove government appointees and officials at all relevant levels. Basically, the meeting failed to resolve the issue and the president ended up saying the matter is “complicated” and he would have to consult Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. In short, the president raised the same arguments which Mutambara has been raising. There was no difference at all, it was the same script. We dealt with all those issues, the legal and political arguments, including moral questions, but Mugabe refused to budge. In the end he said he would have to consult and come back to us.
DM: Mugabe has publicly said his hands are legally tied and he can’t remove Mutambara unless he resigns. What’s your comment on this?
WN: Those are the sort of arguments which Mugabe raised to me, but that’s legally and politically incorrect. His hands are not legally tied at all. Mutambara has not gone to court to challenge the convening of the congress and my subsequent election. It is a few political malcontents who were afraid of losing elections who did that. Mutambara cannot involve himself opportunistically in a case in which he is not party to. Mugabe’s hands are therefore not legally tied as the GPA is clear. Mutambara was deployed as deputy prime minister by virtue of being leader of the MDC and now he is no longer the leader. This is a straight forward issue and the GPA is clear on how and why a deputy prime minister comes into office. Their exit is implicit on how and why they are appointed. Besides, there is no court interdict preventing Mugabe from exercising his powers and duties, nor barring me from taking office. So I told the president “your hands are not legally tied because there is no court interdict restraining you from exercising your powers and allowing us to perform our functions”. In any case even if there is a court case by those losers it doesn’t stop people from working. Mugabe himself was challenged by Tsvangirai in the courts over a disputed presidential election, but he did not stop working while awaiting a ruling on the case. This is not about the law, it’s all politics.
DM: How did Mugabe respond to your answers and reactions during the exchanges?
WN: He kept on saying Mutambara told me this, Mutambara told me that and this is what is happening and this is where we are. It was clear he is working very closely with Mutambara. Mugabe had details of everything that we do in the party and he told me that he was told by Mutambara. For us, it’s now clear Mutambara is a Zanu PF and Mugabe surrogate.
DM: So if he (Mugabe) eventually refuses to remove Mutambara and swear you in as deputy prime minister, what are you going to do?
WN: Mugabe is free to protect Mutambara. For us it’s not about positions, but principles. If he keeps Mutambara in there representing no one except himself, then it’s not only a gross violation of the GPA, but a unilateral re-writing of the agreement, as it would mean Zanu PF now has a deputy prime minister in government through the backdoor. He can keep Mutambara, but he is not our leader anymore and we will denounce him.
DM: Mutambara is standing his ground and he has even fired you from the party. What are you going to do about it?
WN: It shows he is staging a circus and he is the clown. How can an ordinary party member fire the leader of the party? Does he have emergency powers? Where, in the world of politics, has that ever happened? He is desperately trying to pre-empt our national council meeting tomorrow (Thursday).
DM: Your party is going to hold a national council meeting to discuss the Mutambara situation. What is likely to be the outcome?
WN: I don’t know what the national council will resolve. However, as the standing committee of the party we are going to recommend that he should be stripped of his party membership and be expelled. If that happens it does not really change anything in terms of his status in government, but compounds his situation.
DM: If after all these actions Mutambara still maintains his ground, would you take the issue to the facilitator, SA President Jacob Zuma, and Sadc?
WN: I don’t think we should even go that far. I think we should deal with the situation using our national and political processes. Our highest court of appeal in this case is the people. They will have the final say.
DM: I understand from our high-level sources in the Office of the President and Cabinet that Mugabe told you point blank that he is not going to drive Mutambara out of office to pave the way for you. Is that true or not?
WN: I don’t want to go deep into the details of my discussions with the president except painting a general picture for you, but that is true. He said he is not inclined to do that although he would consult the prime minister.
DM: Is it true that Mugabe, who actually speaks Ndebele, told you point blank in Ndebele, probably for the record and for the avoidance of doubt, that he will not swear you in?
WN: That is correct, but I won’t go into the details. I think I have explained sufficiently enough what happened when I met him. Now we await the outcome of his consultations with the prime minister.