Arthur Mutambara's Blunder

Professor Arthur Mutambara is a friend. I have known the deputy Prime Minister-designate to be fiery and indeed fearless. But his latest offering, an article entitled The Inconvenient Truth About The West went overboard in its language and was most certainly ill-advised. He has good points, but these are drowned out by a torrent of invective that does nothing for his image and reinforces prejudices against him.

I remember, as I am sure a large number of you do, Mugabe's riot squads tracking Mutambara down using the trail of blood he left behind as he evaded them at the University of Zimbabwe campus. He had been injured in a raid of the premises. He was Student Representative Council President, and he is still as fiery as he was back then. He is a brave man who speaks his mind, I give him that.

But he must realise that now, he is the deputy Prime Minister Designate of Zimbabwe. 

A diplomat. 

Calling world leaders "unintelligent (stupid, basically), incompetent" and calling heads of state in Africa "pseudo African leaders" is no way for a Deputy PM to go about things. Botswana's army he dismisses as "an incompetent police force". Yes, as even the South Africans have pointed out, Zimbabwe has the strongest standing army in the region, stronger even than the South African National Defence Force. But surely there is a better way to make the point than through such blistering and emotional condemnation? The language he uses, including and especially his repeated reference to race, clouds the issue as much as Tsvangirai's dithering does.

Morgan Tsvangirai knows that Jendayi Fraser said of him: "Tsvangirai is too weak and incompetent for us to allow him to be in an inclusive government with Mugabe." He knows that the powers in the region are aware that part of the reason for his backing out is because of pressure from America and Britain, hence that letter from Mbeki, which some Zimbabweans have used to call for the nation to commit suicide by jettisoning the whole Agreement. True, there is no alternative. 

If Tsvangirai does not go into this GNU, SADC are ready to support whatever Mugabe does to constitute a government in Zimbabwe without the MDC-T and Tsvangirai. Yet Tsvangirai is playing the emotions of both sides in Zimbabwe like a flute, flattering to decieve, telling people other reasons besides the real ones for his reticence on the GNU that he MUST and WILL join. 

This is fact. He will join. What happens to him after that is, of course, something he can control  but he refuse to see that possibility.

I said this almost a month ago on this blog. If you wish to read that post, you can click here and enjoy.

It is indeed all about real politik and Mutambara is right on every single point. It is his tone, however, that leaves a sour taste in the mouth and explains some of the perception problems he has with the people of Zimbabwe. He really does need to look into getting professional PR advice.

The thing is, as Mutambara knows, Tsvangirai knows and agrees with every point that the Deputy PM designate makes but has got his own real politik complications arising out of his relationship with Britain especially and America to a lesser extent. But Tsvangirai has now mastered the art of sleight of hand, especially with the masses who refuse to take the time think through the reasons behind the MDC leader's startlingly erratic behaviour.  Which, of course, is why the people today are none the wiser about his real reasons for not coming back to Zimbabwe. 

They all think, variously, that it has to do with Home Affairs, threats to his life and all that nonsense and Tsvangirai has let that uncertainty, which breeds rumour, fester on the body of our national politics. Yes, Tsvangirai is indeed in a pickle and furiously digging his own grave by refusing to play SADC at their own game. Or perhaps he simply does not have the ability to do this. Whatever it is, Mutambara's mounting frustration with his co-leader in the opposition of the current political terrain is understandable.

Crucially, Mutambara must be feeling even higher levels of frustration that, by allowing speculation to give him a large dose of the benefit of doubt, Tsvangirai retains the meaningless (in practical terms) sympathy of the people, even as the Americans and the British themselves busily scout for an alternative Zimbabwean opposition to Tsvangirai.

Still, the most important thing about all this is that we all recognise that Mutambara is overcome by the anger he feels at seeing Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans suffer needlessly. Being a pragmatist (something Barak Obama has been praises for by both sides of the American Congress and Senate, as well a majority of Americans), Mutambara realises that there is only one way to gain power in Zimbabwe, and that is through the strategic use of openings in our political space. Bluntly, that means working with Mugabe, after extracting the maximum concessions from him, which had been achieved to a large extent.

Mugabe blinked after the June run-off farce. He blinked at Sharma el Sheik. He blinked in Sandton. He blinked at the Rainbow towers in negotiations with Tsvangirai, Mbeki and Mutambara. Yet Tsvangirai failed at every turn to press home the advantage. Which is why Mugabe is now telling SADC that Tsvangirai hastily agreed to everything else in order to quickly get to the Home Affairs ministry negotiation so that he could control the trials of his "bandits". And SADC bought it. These are all wasted opportunities and Tsvangirai is now simply trying to pull back a truck that is travelling in third gear.

Yes I agree with you, Arthur, that to beat Mugabe (read ZANU PF, for he (Mugabe) is Legion), the opposition will first have to join him and calm the fears of the military and the hardliners from within the corridors of Munhumutapa Buildings. Tsvangirai can not do that from Botswana. And he is, in fact, in the process of squandering perhaps the only real chance he has of contributing to the revival of Zimbabwe.

Indeed, Arthur, you are also angry that, right now, the economic plan that the MDC had for the immediate stabilisation of the economy has been appropriated, stolen by ZANU PF and is beginning to show results, no matter how modest. You hear as we all do the depressing talk of people in the streets that "things are improving". And all this with no Tsvangirai and no Mutambara in sight to take some of the credit.

The opposition's plan was, indeed, to first allow for some form of dollarisation in order to get goods and services flowing freely again. Mugabe has stolen that and is marching in lock step with it. Stores are now full of food being sold in foreign currency. Workers, inclduing construction company workers are now being paid in US dollars. One big construction company based in Graniteside gives its labourers US$10 a day now, and they can walk into any shop and buy mealie meal and cooking oil and the much-loved Scud. A squandered opportunity, this, to show the people that the opposition in government could turn things around by rejecting Mugabe's misguided "sovereignty" pride that shunned the dollar and the rand even as his own currency turned into toilet paper? Absolutely.

But what is done is done and, deputy PM designate, it serves no purpose and does not advance your cause to use such vitriolic language publicly at this delicate hour. We understand your anger. But we also ask you to understand the position that you now occupy in our national political edifice and draw back the sting. The rebuke will still be a rebuke, but the manner of its delivery will make it more likely that it will be received positively by its intended target. You know: "telling a man to go hell in such a manner that he looks forward to the trip".

You speak like this because you love Zimbabwe and are hurting at the wasted opportunities and wasted lives. We understand. Your previous statements stating exactly this position have been ignored by the ignorant and politically illiterate, by some media that have sold their souls to Tsvangirai. And now, frustration at having to watch a whole nation die needlessly, or having to watch the last chance the MDCs had of assuming supremacy in Zimbabwe slip away, you come out forcefully, heavily and, let's not shy away from it, crudely, to hammer home the truth, for that is what you speak.

But, please, for the sake of unity within the ranks facing Mugabe's murderous regime, tone it down.

There is no doubt that Mutambara has a valid point with his article. A very valid point. It is that we who live here should have the final say on what happens in Zimbabwe. I also know that he went personally to witness the devastation wrought by cholera in Budiriro. The Matron of the clinic had denied him entry, as she did Simba Makoni. Mutambara characteristically forced his way in and dared the security and police present to stop him. He was not stopped and went on to talk to the sick and dying.

What he saw there made him angry. I know that what he is witnessing everyday, the death and destruction and poverty all make him angry. He is quite rightly of the opinion that the opposition can not be just spectators to all this suffering. But emotion must now be reigned in. We must, in our own way, become as calculating as Robert Mugabe.  We can beat him at his game. It is only that the man leading the opposition has no clue how to do this. We must show him how. But this is not the way to go about it.

I am presuming that these truths have not lost me a friend?!!!


  1. You always say ceteris paribus,
    one thing i have see with this professors moyo etc tend to fail to adapt -forget events on the ground.You might have good sources and articles/predictions, events tend to spring suprises
    To zims who is Arthur-answer nonentity only saved by mbeki,welshmn and mugabe as a spoiler.
    Pple are not stupid and i think you learned yhis from the last election as mavambo thats why u shunnned the guy when he tried to prostitute with u.
    Do useriously thing Mtmbala is keen n the next election, if so representing who and are gonna co-opt him?

  2. l support Mutambara .Tsvangirai is a western pupert.

  3. Probably the best article you have done....but again the year has just started!

  4. Why, thank you sir.

    But what about all that other stuff I've written? Just kidding, I do appreciate the feedback very much.

  5. Arthur is a good man. Passionate and intelligent. His reading of the politics at the moment is right on the button.

    He realises the futility of the task at hand, removing Mugabe from power, especially seeing the competence level of the custodian of that task.

    What he is putting to the people of Zimbabwe is not an opinion when stripped of its invective. It is simply truth.

    Whether we like it or not, we will see continue to see Mugabe running rings around the leader of the opposition. With each passing year, the people' tolerance levels increase.

    Zimbabweans are fed small doses of pain incrementally, thereby being immunised by Mugabe against the next round of an even bigger dose.

    Perhaps by the time we will wake up, we will be dead. It has happened before. Somalia comes to mind. Mengistu, also. Or Bokassa.

    And it is all because we the people of Zimbabwe refuse to put our minds to it, instead running hither and thither in pursuit of our emotions.

  6. When are zimbabweans going to learn to use their brains before their hearts. You do not owe Tsvangirai anything neither does he owe us either. When he makes a blunder let's face it and call it that. This is the only way we will be able to come out of the fire not burnt but as pure as gold. Any sustainable revolution/development start small and grows bigger; we should use all the little avenues at our disposal to enhance the zimbabwean cause and also thorns in our path we should exploit them to our advantage.

    With Desire, Hope, Faith, Persistence and Perseverance we will free ourselves from the yoke of the regime.

  7. I want to comment on your statement, "Workers, inclduing construction company workers are now being paid in US dollars." That statement only becomes true if you say that, "A few workers for example construction company workers I know are now being paid in US dollars," because the truth of the matter is that only a few employers are paying their employees in US dollars. Your statement implies that all or most workers are now being paid in US dollars, which is not true. There is talk that most employers will start paying in US dollars at the end of January 2009, but it is still just that, talk. Most ordinary Zimbabweans are suffering as we speak, trying to get US dollars for them to survive in a dollarised Zimbabwe. Of course there are quite a number of Zimbabweans who are benefiting from the dollarised economy but their number is much less than of those who are paid in Zimbabwean dollars and have no means of getting US dollars.

  8. I posted the first anonymous comment on this page.thanksfor answering me indirectly with the following words from yo article about zapu

    "The strategy, however, could backfire spectacularly, in the first instance because urban dwellers all over Zimbabwe, as well the Ndebele people themselves, have always taken the view that anything condemned by Mugabe has to be good, and anything praised by him is immediately tainted".

    Plese don`t patronise Mtmbala,he is politially death,its the pungent smell we have to put up with for some time.

    Read Simba`s comments-civilised mature and informed-yu are better than this

  9. good article but i just want to add that this dollarisation is hurting the ordinary folks especially the sellers of small commodities like veggies and fruit, bananas , oranges and other small things. i have noticed that they all want us dollars but they dont have aclue as to the real value of dollars. so they sell a bundle of rape/tsunga for US1 which is rediculous this is almost R10.i dont blame them because they are also buying mealie meal at US10/10Kg bag. my point is the confusion that this dollarisation brings is hurting them because it was not carefully planned and executed its kind of a situation where u juast find yourself there.

    back to mt and agm
    i think mt is right about not joining the unity government before agreeing other sticking points because here he is dealing with a dishonest rgm. imagine going to bank and agreeing a morgage and the your agent asks u to come and sign tomorrow and you only realise after signing the the monthly instalment is R10 000 not the R6 000 you agreed. that will be fraud but chinamasa did it to sadc and to this day they do not see how serious this is.

    in conclusion i think mt is right in taking his time because when u deal with people like rgm u have to be extra cautious.

  10. Zimbabwe needs about 10 Mutambara's, and Zimbabwe will be the next South Africa in 5 years. He is a seasoned global leader, young and open to criticism, and understands the importance of engaging the other nations for development.


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