Saturday, March 5, 2011

Unlocking the Arthur Mutambara Puppet Theatre

by Dr Brilliant Sigabade Mhlanga

THAT Arthur Mutambara is not the director of proceedings in the puppet theatre is clear. It is equally clear that he is performing puppetry politics. We are guided here by George Charamba’s (aka Nathaniel Manheru) engagement of the situation when he said the following about Arthur Mutambara, “...unexpectedly and through repeated interaction with (President) Mugabe, he met filling depth, inexhaustible profoundness, vast accommodation and an alluring myth from which he found much to tap to build his own aura. To see the two together was like seeing a revolutionary grandfather trying to impart and inspire an eager youth so hungry for fame. Arthur has imbibed a lot from the old man, which is what will never make him the same, whatever his circumstances in the MDC-M…”
Indeed, Arthur will never be the same. It is also clear that Arthur has set out to destroy everything that he fought for over the years. But wisdom from our elders has it that, “when a man is stung by a bee, he doesn't set off to destroy all beehives.”
However, a couple of things have to be deciphered as they emerge from this circus. It is clear from the above statement that Arthur Mutambara is not his own man and that he has been transformed. The exuberant self-professed democrat who used to preach the language of ‘walking the talk’ is gone! But why is that so?
First is the fact that ZANU PF had long accepted that for as long as Professor Welshman Ncube continues in that GNU then they will not be able to get what they want - which is to cause the collapse of the Global Political Agreement. Remember for them, it is now clear that Morgan Tsvangirai's party has failed to cause it to collapse.
We have seen them stretching MDC T to almost breaking point. But after achieving only a ‘partial pull-out’ with MDC T, ZANU PF’s best strategy has been to disenfranchise the GPA’s ‘king pin’, Professor Ncube so as to cause him to defy and ultimately pull out. But remember there will always be nothing wrong with the MDC having to pull out of the GPA; especially on their part. Which ever way they will still benefit big time, I will explain this later. But ZANU PF and MDC-T should be reminded that our elders had seen it all when they said, “…the same sun that melts the wax, hardens the clay.”
It is a known fact that Professor Ncube has been the bedrock on which the GPA was coined and the brains behind a lot of things. As George Charamba (aka Nathaniel Manheru) once acknowledged, Professor Ncube operated as a principal during negotiations - that is a fact. But President Mugabe’s claim of wanting to consult Morgan Tsvangirai on this one smacks of his penchant for deliberate vagueness and extremely dirty poli-tricking. Of course, the major strategy is to find enough reason to dig in and disenfranchise MDC. ZANU PF appreciates the part played by Professor Ncube leading to the creation of this GPA.


But for now they have found a student, in Mutambara, who like an impoverished village drunkard can easily be ill-advised into taking a stand. Unfortunately, given his naturally forward and excessively fast behaviour (mawara) he has just jumped. Remember, ZANU PF wants an early election and they are desperate for a reason to force one. It must also be acknowledged that for ZANU PF these elections will be the most defining given the fact of President Mugabe’s age, growing senility and incapacitation. They are desperate for an excuse that will help them manage their succession crisis. And so the imagined squable in the MDC-N has been a godsend.
Further, it must be stated that Mutambara's celebration of this notion of being a 'Principal' is as stupid as the one who pronounces it. Everyone knows the term 'principal' was a compromise for “presidents” of political parties after the negotiating teams realised they were poles apart and were treading on volatile ground. It has no legal standing at all. For a person of Mutambara’s education not to know this smacks of gullibility, if it is not from spending too much time with Mugabe that he has lost all his bearings, if ever he had them.
I need not belabour the point that the so called 'Principals' who are in the GPA are deployed party cadres. A Deputy Prime Minister, just like any minister or deputy minister can and should be recalled by their party if it so wishes. What is even more comical about this whole show is that Mutambara accepted his defeat, thereby indirectly relinquishing the position of DPM, or at least leaving it at the behest of his party to decide whether he should remain in that office. Moreover, if he had any objection, why did Mutambara officially open the MDC congress and preside over the procedures that resulted in Ncube’s elevation? Not only did he openly congratulate Ncube and hand over the keys, as it were: he never issued any statement condemning the whole exercise.
But none of this beats his decision to expel himself from the MDC party when he purported to have fired Professor Welshman Ncube from the MDC. Why do I say so? You will realise that the basis for any political party to qualify into the negotiating table was that a political party has to have legislators in parliament. This explains to us why three political parties found themselves at the negotiating table.
We are reminded here of the furore that accompanied this qualification process with the likes of Lovemore Madhuku claiming that the process was quite exclusive. That being the case, it means Mutambara has a tough task ahead of him. It means he has to lure those MPs to his side, after which he can stand and proclaim at the top of every mountain that he is, indeed, the leader, of course, notwithstanding the fact that we can clearly understand his double dipping and political infidelity following the handing over of the mantle of leadership to Professor Ncube.
Failure of which, it would mean he is the only leader without MPs in the GPA whose founding principle we all understand, thus making it even more curious. If he continues, it means other political parties like ZAPU, Mavambo etc, will have an opportunity to lay claim as well. Or else, his legislators will be those from ZANU PF, in which case the clear statement should be that - there is ‘No GNU with 1 MDC and 2 ZANU PF PRINCIPALS.’
But whichever way he has destroyed himself, of course, for the good of ZANU PF. It must also be acknowledged that Professor Jonathan Moyo once warned on this issue by acknowledging how invidious Arthur Mutambara’s position is. I recall that Moyo's advice was that the best route for Mutambara would be to relinquish the position, retire completely, thereby leaving room for a good political come-back in which he will still stand on solid ground, punctuated by morality and respect from most circles.
As wisdom has it that, “…if the throat can grant passage to a knife, the anus should not wonder how to expel it…” Mutambara should have known that in the same way he entered both the MDC and ultimately the GPA, the exit door remained open for him to be flushed out. Now a lot of people think he is just a clown - of course, those who had long said so have their positions fortified, but those who had given him the benefit of the doubt now have an egg on their faces.
Also we must not forget that a number of people in Harare who are supporting Mutambara now are doing so either to spite Ncube or to indirectly settle their scores with both Ncube and Mutambara. But one thing for sure is that they never liked Mutambara, especially his meteoritic rise to power at the behest of Ncube.
However, Professor Ncube's moment of vindication is imminent. But it will depend on how he scores to gain political capital from this clear penalty scenario Arthur has given him on a silver platter. Mutambara is like a player who has handled in the box. Now it calls for a skilful penalty taker. But the benefiting team must know that if not properly executed it can go either way.
But Professor Ncube stands to benefit in a big way from this, especially if his strategists go ballistically defiant and are able to harness the moment for their good. It must be understood also that MDC in this case stands to benefit even if the GPA collapses with them being at the core of its collapse. A lot of people still do not understand it anyway, so on the envelope of defiance and other pragmatic strategies Ncube and his MDC will be the victors.
My argument is further bolstered by the fact that even if MDC may have entertained the idea of contesting the presidency, they are still having to recoup and so they definitely are wise enough to understand that they would not win the Presidency even if elections are held tomorrow, next month, or next year. But they will definitely win more seats if they go into an early election riding on the parapet of defiance and posting a clear anti-ZANU PF strategy.
This will grant them more leverage in the next coalition government. But for MDC-T, whose thrust is to assail entirely, things may go either way. If anything, the best strategy for Morgan Tsvangirai is not to celebrate what is perceived as the ‘demise of Professor Ncube’ and his party too early as he may live to remember this moment. A good strategist is one who sees with the eye of the future and appreciates that what will be can be influenced by decisions of today.
Lastly, we are all reminded that our wise ones had seen it all when they said, “...if you want the monkey to expose its buttocks you should encourage it to climb further up the tree...” Arthur Mutambara being the man we had all gotten to know – excessively forward, the situation permitted him to expose his buttocks. As a result, what the MDC has done was almost inevitable and should not be a surprise. His (Mutambara) handling of the situation was quite clumsy. Ever heard of the wisdom that says, “…it requires a lot of carefulness to kill the fly that perches on the scrotum”?  Arthur should have known this.
Dr Brilliant Sigabade Mhlanga is a human rights activist and an academic from the University of Westminster, London

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