Title: The path to power: in search of the elusive Zimbabwe dream (vol. 2)
Author: Arthur Mutambara
Publisher: Sapes books 2010
By Phillip Chidavaenzi
In this second volume of former deputy prime Minister Arthur Mutambara’s biography of thought leadership, he picks up the thread from where he left in the first volume, The Formative Years and the Big Wide World, published last year.
This particular volume—The Path to Power—captures Mutambara’s return to Africa and his entry into the country’s mainstream politics, which eventually climaxed in his appointment as deputy prime minister under the global political agreement that brought former president Robert Mugabe and the late former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai together.
The book’s major strength perhaps lies in the fact that Mutambara was not an outsider to the ongoing political processes but was intimately involved and thus exposed to all the political shadow-boxing, grandstanding and manoeuvres that were part and parcel of the political marriage solemnised by former South African president Thabo Mbeki. In this regard, the book becomes a path-finding literary offering.
With its scope stretching to 2018, the book provides an over-arching view of the landmark elections that gave President Emmerson Mnangagwa — who swept to power in November last year on the crest wave of a military coup that deposed former strongman Mugabe — a veneer of legitimacy.
The events appeared to reinforce Mutambara’s argument about the “elusive dream”.
The removal of Mugabe from the political scene had provided the country an opportunity to bring real change and ensure that the dream is finally realised, but recent events have all but dashed the little hope that Zimbabweans had been clutching.
The book is divided into three sections —Return to Africa and Re-entry into Politics (2003 -2005), Building a Viable Alternative to Zanu PF (2006-2007) and Journey Towards the GNU (2008-2009).
Just like its predecessor and perhaps the forthcoming third installment of this epic trilogy of sorts, the book reflects, in painstaking detail, a significant phase in Zimbabwe’s political history, and for someone who belongs to the academia, there is demonstration that a lot of research, observation and experience was invested into this work. This will be definitely a major reference text when students of history ponder the road that post-independence Zimbabwe has walked in search of the dream for which many liberation war fighters sacrificed their lives.
Just like the first book, the second volume also tells Mutambara’s story in pictures, from his private life to his time in politics. In many ways, this pictorial segment helps break the monotony of text in such a voluminous read.
Section 3 of the 425-page memoir provides scintillating insights into the Global Political Agreement. It did not come easy. The opposition, led by Tsvangirai, was fuming that it has been robbed of victory in the 2008 elections, and is on a global mission to engage political stakeholders — particularly Sadc and the African Union — over the stolen election run-off in Zimbabwe, which Mutambara describes as “the bloodiest election campaign in Zimbabwean history” whose “level of brutality, barbarism and callousness is entirely unprecedented.” (pp227). The book traces the protracted process of making the GNU work, from reaching agreements on the distribution of ministerial portfolios, with Mugabe riding roughshod over everybody to unilaterally appoint Joice Mujuru and the late Joseph Msika his deputies.
The division that rocked the MDC does not escape the lens of Mutambara’s pen as he also details how the MDC split through the middle and how protracted efforts to wedge them back together failed, leading to the formation of what became known as the MDC-T (Tsvangirai) and MDC-M (Mutambara). Mutambara, however, insists on his belief in a “unified opposition that grants Zimbabweans an enhanced opportunity to deliver change” (pp275).
Given his background as a scholar, Mutambara does not limit the political processes he wants to capture in the book to events in Zimbabwe alone, but he gives an all-encompassing view on what is happening on Africa’s political and economic landscape. The book carries a note on his reflections during Africa Day commemorations in 2008.
Reflecting on a continent that has incredibly become notorious for nurturing political strongmen that are almost like demi-gods that will not surrender power willingly, political violence, abuse of political rights and endemic poverty, he writes: “While it is imperative to address the fundamental issues of how political power is distributed and exercised and to develop and live a new democratic culture characterised by people-crafted constitutions, political pluralism, tolerance, leadership renewal, freedoms of association, assembly and expression; it is equally essential that we also work towards achieving freedom from poverty and breaking the cycle of destitution among all our people.” (pp290).
Mutambara gives an interesting account of how he, together with Tsvangirai, agreed to attend the Zimbabwe Heroes Day commemorations on August 11 2008, for the first time as a way of building confidence in the ongoing GNU negotiations. Previously, the opposition had kept away from such national events as they appeared to have been monopolised by Zanu PF into “party shows” rather than national events. Tsvangirai, however, is said to have chickened out at the last minute and no reasons were ever proffered.
The book reveals Mutambara’s nationalistic instinct despite his flirtation with opposition politics as he honours national heroes that created “a solid foundation for the construction of our nation-state” and “a rich foundation from which we can feed our minds” (pp327) and this was perhaps one of the reasons why his opponents felt he was no more than a Zanu PF agent implanted in the MDC to help destroy the opposition from within.
The book closes with an interview that Mutambara granted Bloomberg TV centred on the GNU. During the interview, he made an important observation: whether one wanted the GNU or not, it had to be put together—almost becoming some kind of rite of passage for Zimbabweans— because all the players in the process had very limited choice. In essence, it was almost like a necessary evil (at least from the opposition and ruling party perspectives), being cruel in order to be kind.
Although one may not agree with Mutambara’s interpretation of events and his perspectives on national politics, this volume, together with the first and forthcoming last instalment, will definitely contribute to the wealth of knowledge around Zimbabwe’s politics, particularly the periods covered.
Chidavaenzi is the Features and Lifestyle editor of NewsDay.