ON February 11 2009, I took oath to serve my country in the office of Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) of the Republic of Zimbabwe. It is a commitment I took with due consideration to the broader and inclusive interests and aspirations of our country.
February 11 2009 was the culmination of a protracted set of political events which sought to resolve deep seated social, economic and political problems afflicting our nation. President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and I had signed the Global Political Agreement (GPA) on September 15 2008, and the swearing in ceremony on 11 February 2009 marked the consummation of Zimbabwe’s inclusive government.
It was neither an accident nor an act of benevolence from any person that Arthur Mutambara, and not anybody else, took the oath of office as one of the two Deputy Prime Ministers of this country.
The office of deputy prime minister is a creature of the Constitution of Zimbabwe by virtue of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Number 19 Act. Accordingly, it is an office of state. As an office of state, it exists to serve the people of Zimbabwe regardless of race, tribe, sex, political party affiliation or religion. For the avoidance of doubt, the office of the DPM does not serve one political party.
Arthur Mutambara, the deputy prime minister of the Republic of Zimbabwe and Arthur Mutambara, the president of a political party in Zimbabwe are two different persons. The former is governed by the national interest and collective non-partisan aspirations, while the latter is a functionary of political party idiosyncrasies.
When I took the decision not to contest for the position of president of my political party, I was very conscious of the distinction between an office of state and a political party position. Everybody in my party is, and has always been, aware of this distinction. In fact this was discussed, understood and agreed. The idea was to elect a new leadership which will concentrate on building the party and prepare for the next elections, and not change leadership in order to bicker over current offices of state.
I would never have taken the oath to serve this country in the office of deputy prime minister, if I had not committed myself to serve this country faithfully for the entire duration of the inclusive government.
While no single Zimbabwean is indispensable, there are specific national projects, programmes and coordinative activities that I am spearheading in my capacity as DPM, and it will be detrimental to the national interest for me to abandon them midstream. I would be remiss in the execution of my national obligation and duties, if I did so.
I have no intention whatsoever to leave the position of deputy prime minister in the Inclusive Government.
I will not abdicate from my national responsibilities in order to satisfy narrow party-political aspirations.
In our national constitution, there is no facility for a political party to recall a sitting DPM. In the GPA, while there is provision to reshuffle ministers after consultation among the three Principals, there is no provision to remove a Global Political Agreement principal.
Neither is there an instrument to remove a sitting DPM, more so when he or she is also a principal.
In terms of parliament, according to the Constitution of Zimbabwe as changed by Amendment Number 19 Act, I am an ex-officio MP which means that I am a member of that august House by virtue of my being a DPM.
I am not a Constituency based MP elected on a party ticket. Consequently, no political party can recall me from Parliament. I will cease to be an MP the moment I stop being DPM, and not the reverse. That is the law.
This brings me to an issue currently dominating the public domain, namely the so-called “re-deployment” of Arthur Mutambara. This “re-deployment” has been put in the public domain by some members of my party led by Professor Welshman Ncube.
The public is aware that the legality of a meeting of my party held on January 8 and 9 2011 has been put in issue. Bona-fide members of our party have asked the High Court of Zimbabwe to determine whether or not the meeting of January 8 and 9 2011 was legally valid. This means that the High Court is now seized with the issue of whether or not Ncube is validly in office as president of my party.
The rule of law enjoins us to respect the rights of persons to approach the courts for the resolution of legitimate disputes. I am aware of the argument that before the courts rule on the matter, there must be an assumption that the meeting of January 8 and 9 2011 was legitimate.
This is a flawed legal position.
The argument presupposes there is a presumption of validity of the said meeting, and yet this presumption only applies to legislative acts and ministerial instruments, and not to actions of private organisations and individuals, such as political parties and their members.
Moreover, where a matter has been placed before a superior court of unlimited jurisdiction such as our High Court, it is important that the decisions of the courts are not pre-empted, in particular by the Executive arm of government, for that would undermine the independence of the Judiciary. More importantly, we cannot have major decisions affecting matters of state and national interest, such as recalling a DPM (assuming that it was possible), being based on outcomes of a meeting whose legitimacy is being challenged within our national legal system. We should all be disciples of the rule of law.
Consequently, until the High Court makes its ruling in this matter, I, Arthur Guseni Oliver Mutambara, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Zimbabwe, and one of the three signatories (Principals) to the Global Political Agreement which led to the formation of the inclusive government, will not recognise Ncube as the president of the party I belong to, the MDC, the party that signed the GPA with MDC-T and Zanu-PF. Neither will I recognise the team that he heads as the leadership of the party, MDC.
Accordingly, not only is there no constitutional or legal basis for the “re-deployment,” there is also neither moral nor political foundation to it.
It must be understood that today (February 7), is the first time since January 8 that I am speaking about these matters surrounding the contested leadership changes in my party. When I spoke on January 8 at the meeting whose outcome is being challenged in the courts, I only gave opening remarks before there was any purported leadership change. I urged those at the gathering to address two pertinent issues:
- The boycott by critical senior party leaders such as the national chairperson (official convener of the congress), Women Wing chairperson, Youth Wing chairperson, a significant number of National Council Members, and a large number of congress delegates, and
- The detailed petition of genuine grievances presented by these disgruntled leaders.
I spoke of the need for political accommodation, tolerance and amicable resolution of the raging conflicts.
I clearly indicated that the survival of the party and the legitimacy of the meeting of January 8 and 9 depended on how the party, in particular those vying for leadership positions will attend to these challenges.
I have not spoken since. Even that afternoon of January 8 after individuals assumed positions of leadership I never said a word of endorsement or condemnation. I was silent until today, because I was hoping that those claiming party leadership would be creative and magnanimous, and follow through and heal the Party as I had suggested.
The opposite has happened. Those who are claiming leadership started victimising the aggrieved leaders and party cadres (seizing party assets from them, removing them from national programmes such as Copac, etc), there were and continue to be attacks back and forth in the media, and of course there is the legal challenge to the legitimacy of the meeting itself. Furthermore, the party is disintegrating with groups leaving to join other parties, as witnessed recently in Chitungwiza.
This is the sad state of the MDC party. It means that beyond establishing legitimacy through the courts, those claiming leadership of the MDC have to embark on political processes to establish their political and moral legitimacy among party members and the nation at large. Until all this is done, they cannot effectively represent the party and neither can they speak authoritatively on its behalf.