Mutambara’s devilish fight for political survival

Zimbabwe’s government has been operating with the precision and predictability of a hunting escapade of a three-headed-monster – each of the two heads with a mind of its own and the third with a severe dual personality disorder.

Arthur Mutambara

Arthur Mutambara

President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu – PF and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) factions the larger, MDC-T, led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai the smaller (MDC) led by Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Arthur Mutambara – the country’s three main political parties were forced into a government of national unity (GNU) in the wake of the sham June 2008 presidential runoff that followed the hung March election after signing a Global Political Agreement (GPA) which was appended to the country’s constitution as the 19th amendment.

The GPA was guaranteed by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) along with the African Union (AU) but its SADC that acts as the supreme court of appeal in GPA related disputes.

A decade-long economic decline stopped and rampant human rights abuses eased but a sense of personal security remains elusive and so does trust among the main political players as they jostle to position themselves for an electoral victory in the next poll.

While the impasse between Zanu –PF and the former opposition political parties was predictable the fall out between Mutambara and his then party’s Secretary General and current Industry and Commerce Minister, Welshman Ncube further complicated the small Southern African country’s politics.

Now Mutambara and Ncube are in a nasty dog-fight which is on occasion threatening GNU operations.

Following the MDC’s 2005 split with Tsvangirai’s larger group, Ncube’s faction’s top two posts were then occupied by Gibson Sibanda and himself, both Ndebele who constitute just 14 per cent of the country’s population, so either for a lack of confidence that a Ndebele can successfully compete for the country’s presidency they decided to parachute Mutambara, a Shona and former vibrant student activist, out of practically nowhere, to their party’s top post. This was hoped to challenge Tsvangirai’s popularity and pacify the larger Shona tribal group, who make up 82 per cent of Zimbabweans, amid accusations that the split had largely happened along tribal lines.

In the 2008 presidential election though the Mutambara led MDC failed to secure any parliamentary seat outside of Matabeleland. While the group did not field in every constituency its member who held parliamentary seats in the united MDC like their current Secretary General, Priscilla Misihairabwi – Mushonga among others lost dismally.

Two years into the GNU Mutambara was booted out of the party’s leadership and reduced to a mere party member and ought have relinquished the DPM post to Ncube, but a further two years down the road he still holds on as he contests his ouster in the courts.

The Financial Gazette accuse Mutambara of clinging to the coattails of Mugabe and Tsvangirai which appears to have extended his political life as he clearly have a poor support base following his loss of his only elected post in Zimbabwean politics during the February 2011 MDC congress.

After he contested the congress’ decision in the High Court, a Bulawayo High Court ruling delivered on December 15, 2011 by Justice Lawrence Kamocha however interdicted Mutambara from purporting to be the president of MDC. It also barred him from exercising any further functions vested in the President of the party.

He went on to appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court which, to date, is yet to be heard.

On June 12 this year Justice Bharat Patel dismissed another application by a Mutambara ally Jobert Mudzumwe, chairperson of an MDC faction headed by Mutambara, and 13 others which sought to reverse the results of the 2011 congress that saw Ncube ascend to the presidency. The judgment validated the congress and the election of the new party executive led by Ncube.

Mudzumwe and the 13 party members had argued in their application that the congress was convened and conducted in violation of the MDC constitution accusing the conveners of failing to send notices of the congress to all provinces and districts.

They also argued that there were defects in the nomination process for congress elections, adding that the polls were procedurally conducted because the national chairman was absent from the process. Mudzumwe, who was then the acting chairman of the MDC, snubbed the congress. Patel dismissed the arguments.

“I see no merit in the contention that notices must be send to the districts directly and not indirectly through the provinces. What matters, at the end of the day, is that notices are in fact sent to districts through an appropriate and acceptable form of transmission. In this regard, I can see nothing objectionable in the dispatch of notices to the districts through the provincial structures as happened in this case,” ruled Patel.

Patel also ruled that since 4000 delegates from all provinces and districts attended the congress, those who failed to attend including Mudzumwe, deliberately chose to not to.

“What is more critical in this regard is the action that was taken by the national council at its meeting on 7 January 2011. Once it become clear that the first applicant had no intention of attending the congress, the national council resolved that, in the event of his boycotting the congress, all the functions vested in him at the congress would be performed by the national organising secretary. In my view, the national council was fully empowered to do so by virtue of the provisions of Article 15.1 of the MDC constitution,” ruled Patel.

Mudzumwe and his colleagues are also contesting this ruling in the Supreme Court.

Ncube has accused Mugabe of facilitating Mutambara’s stay in government as he only became DPM on the strength of his being MDC’s president.

Because GPA principals sometimes meet to discuss government business as well as issues relating to implementation of reforms agreed under the coalition Ncube vowed in August to defy decisions from all such meetings in which he is excluded.

“We have an anomaly where Zanu – PF picks who is to be principal of another party. It is just insane. We have not accepted that, we don’t accept it and will never accept it,” Ncube, who is himself also Industry and Commerce Minister, told the media.

“We will not be bound by decisions of that forum where we are not represented,” he said adding that “if the forum makes decisions that are to come to Cabinet, myself, Minister David Coltart (Education, Sport, Arts and Culture) and Minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (Regional Integration and International Co-operation) will not co-operate with that.”

He said this in the wake of SADC decision to recognise him ahead of Mutambara as the GPA principal for the MDC.

Press reports however quote Mugabe’s spokesman, George Charamba, as maintaining that Mutambara would remain DPM and GPA Principal, since he is contesting his ouster in court, insisting that Zimbabwe was not bound by SADC’s decision over the issue.

During the Constitution Parliament Select Committee (COPAC) Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference in October Ncube’s group almost undermined the whole constitution making process had they boycotted the event but only limited their stay away to the opening speeches by GPA principals who excluded Ncube forcing the intervention of South African President Jacob Zuma.

But the political contest between the two continue with Mutambara contesting the expulsion of Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, Nomalanga Khumalo, Thandeko Zindi Mkandla of Gwanda North, Maxwell Dube of Tsholotsho South, Senators Kembo Dube of Umzingwane South, and Dalumuzi Khumalo of Lupane, for allegedly being sympathetic to Tsvangirai arguing that they belong to him and also that Ncube had no authority to make such a decision as they were elected under his leadership which is yet to be determined by the Supreme Court.

Section 41 of the Constitution is the one that is used to axe legislators from Parliament if they defect to another party and it is the secretary-general of the concerned political party who is required to write to the Speaker of the House of Assembly and the Senate President informing them that the legislators no longer represent their party’s interest.

In 2009, Ncube as MDC’s secretary-general expelled Abednico Bhebhe (Nkayi South), Njabuliso Mguni (Lupane East) and Norman Mpofu (Bulilima East) for similar reasons.

With the expulsions Ncube is now left with three House of Assembly members, Moses Mzila Ndlovu, Edward Mkhosi and Patrick Dube as well as David Coltart in the Senate to make it only four elected representatives.

Mutambara also ridicules Ncube’s claim for legitimacy in the GPA when he has fired about 70 per cent of popularly elected members.

In separate letters to the president of the Senate, Edna Madzongwe and the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Lovemore Moyo, Mutambara argued that the expulsions be disregarded until after the supreme court makes its ruling on the party’s contested leadership.

Political analysts and the ordinary Zimbabwean however feel that Mutambara is only using the slow court processes to see through his term as DPM as his arguments are frivolous.

But then Mutambara has nothing to lose and everything to gain as the courts, as always, take their time. It is Ncube who still would have lost even if Mutambara loses his Supreme Court appeal.

No wonder he regrets ever handing the party’s leadership to Mutambara.


© 2012, Bernard Chiketo. All rights reserved. – The views expressed here are purely those of the author and not necessarily those of the publishers. – Newstime Africa content cannot be reproduced in any form – electronic or print – without prior consent of the Publishers. Copyright infringement will be pursued and perpetrators prosecuted.

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