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Editor’s Memo

Why Bob spares Arthur: theories

Vincent Kahiya

I’VE been wondering why President Mugabe has not taken aim at MDC pro-senate leader Professor Arthur Mutambara. 

The rocket scientist does not appear to be on the menu for Mu

gabe’s consumption, perhaps because our octogenarian leader does not regard him as a serious threat and therefore sees it as a waste of time to expend energy on him.

Either that or the president feels that he would rather concentrate his fight on a familiar front — Morgan Tsvangirai.

When Mugabe last Friday started to spew out expletives at the Heroes’ Acre, attacking the opposition, I thought Mutambara would not be spared.

Tsvangirai who got the thick end of the stick from Mugabe was the target because of his call for jambanja against the regime.

Mutambara has also called for a confrontation with Mugabe.

Tsvangirai at his faction’s congress called for a “cold season of peaceful democratic resistance” and a “short, sharp, programme of action to free ourselves” from Mugabe’s government while Mutambara told a press conference:
 
“We are putting Robert Mugabe and his regime on notice. We are going to fight you tooth, nail and claw. We will use all tools of the struggle at our disposal, including jambanja.” 
 

But Mugabe usually takes time to warm up to challenges from nascent opposition politicians. Is his silence about UPP and UPM not significant?


Last Friday he decided not to deal with the Mutambara threat opting for Tsvangirai and his colleagues whom he called a mazengezeza, according to the Herald, but I heard mazunguzurwa (literally, tadpoles, and a very rude word if you ask me) and threatened him if he tried to unseat the government.

“We hear others say we want to go into the streets to demonstrate, to unseat a legitimately elected government. It will never happen and we will never allow it.

“If a person now wants to invite his own death, let him go ahead,” Mugabe warned in his Shona remarks.
We are all very familiar with Mugabe’s “degrees in violence” and calls to “strike fear into the hearts of the white men, our real enemies”.

Therefore his attack on Tsvangirai was not a lightning bolt from the blue.
 
Here is a leader whose government has promulgated laws to shield him from scorn by commoners but is quick to shout abuse at opponents in public.

Away from the hate speech debate which Mugabe can win any day, his clerical ally Nolbert Kunonga could conclude that Mutambara “is a dog barking at an elephant” and therefore just vexatious and no real threat.

Talking about the professor would simply lift him to echelons of importance.


There is another theory.
 
There could be method in Mugabe’s ranting against Tsvangirai and deafening silence against Mutambara.

When dealing with political opponents, Mugabe is usually careful to put his best foot forward.

This economy would have been on a much better keel if he used the same deftness when leading the charge towards economic recovery.

Mutambara could be allowed to go through his rebuilding process with only minor obstacles thrown in his path while walls of Jericho are erected along Tsvangirai’s path.

This would have the effect of strengthening Mutambara to a level of parity with Tsvangirai.

Then bingo for Bob! The sum of two “strong factions” is a weak and fractious opposition.

If Mutambara had joined a united opposition party, he would have definitely been a target of presidential scorn. He could be safe from President Mugabe’s diatribes but in the simple psychology of an opposition supporter, the one being most persecuted by Zanu PF is likely to have a larger crowd behind him.

The recent rallies held by both factions could be telling.

I wrote in this column last month about the danger of Mutambara receiving kudos from Zanu PF or worse still, not being looked at critically by President Mugabe and his handlers.

For opposition politicians, there is value in being attacked by Bob even when he calls you a tadpole.

What’s all that croaking about, I wonder, and when is Mugabe going to sound like a statesman rather than a bitter faction leader?

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