By Pedzisai Ruhanya
WHEN Arthur Mutambara, leader of the pro-senate Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) entered Zimbabwe’s political powder keg, there was some sense of optimism that the robotics professor would champion the re-unification of the two feuding sides
of Zimbabwe’s biggest parliamentary and local government opposition party although it was clear to some critics that he had “tainted” himself by taking a position and then sought to be the arbiter in a crisis in which he was an interested party.
However, Mutambara has failed to live up to those expectations because he dismally could not elucidate to the MDC supporters in particular and Zimbabweans in general, the root causes of the crisis obtaining in Zimbabwe and what needs to be done.
When Mutambara came from South Africa to lead the break-away faction of the MDC he sought to identify what he called re-branding of the MDC as his priority. He also argued that the MDC did not have an ideological underpinning and needed one and then he started to preach and coin the nationalism mantra as his faction’s rallying ideology.
Mutambara missed the point, hence the beginning of his political misfortunes. This is so because in my view the MDC is a social democratic party which tries to rally the workers, students, peasants and others to attain political, economic and social justice in the country after years of political and economic plunder associated with President Robert Mugabe’s administration.
It seems clear what the MDC is seeking from the people is power based on the rule of law and the restoration of the country’s international membership by removing its pariah status currently haunting the regime in Harare.
Therefore, I am not persuaded to accept Mutambara’s strategy to rebrand the party as an issue of substance worth rallying the starving people who need the restoration of law and order in the country as a starting point.
Further on that issue, I want to posit that Mutambara is misleading Zimbabweans into believing that the crisis in Zimbabwe is a crisis about an opposition party which does not have an ideology. The crisis in Zimbabwe is a crisis of legitimacy and governance, not an ideological crisis as Mutambara would want us to believe. It is a crisis of legitimacy and governance emanating from allegations of election rigging and the use of violence against political opponents in the 2000 parliamentary election, 2002 presidential election and the 2005 parliamentary election.
For the record, Mutambara should find time to peruse some High Court rulings pertaining to the MDC election petitions in which more than six election outcomes including the Buhera North result where Morgan Tsvangirai stood against Kenneth Manyonda were nullified by the High Court on the basis of violence, arson and in the case of Tsvangirai, the burning to death of Talent Mabika and Tichaona Chiminya at Murambinda growth point on April 14 2000.
The crisis of legitimacy of the regime in Zimbabwe has been a result of the generality of Zimbabweans and the international community refusing to accept past election results on the basis of electoral manipulation and the use of state-sponsored violence against political opponents. This is the reason it has been argued in academic circles that the Harare regime is a de facto but not de jure administration.
Also of note is the creation of an infrastructure of violence by the Zanu PF government through the establishment of youth militia and its use in political violence against opponents of Zanu PF.
It should also be noted that coupled to this was the militarisation of fundamental state institutions such as the Electoral Supervisory Commission whose chief executive officer during the 2002 presidential elections was Brigadier Douglas Nyikayaramba, the current commander of 2 Brigade.
The government also made it a point that its wishes would prevail in the courts by purging the High Court and Supreme Court of senior and independent judges while appointing its allies who were going to deliver favourable rulings, thereby effectively compromising the independence of the judiciary. This could be seen in the fact that five years after the High Court made rulings in election petitions in 2001 and appeals were made to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court has not heard those cases and they have since been overtaken by events.
This brings me to the next argument where Mutambara told journalists in the Midlands that Tsvangirai lost in 2000, 2002 and 2005. It remains mysterious where he gets such kind of information and the guts to tell Zimbabweans some of them victims of violence, abductions and arson — that they lost the elections. Most unfortunate for Mutambara, he was speaking in the Midlands province where one Big Chitoro, the leader of the war veterans in Mberengwa, created torture camps leading to the brutal murder of one Fainos Zhou prior to the June 2000 parliamentary election.
It is mindboggling that Mutambara fails or refuses to acknowledge these issues as the reasons behind Zimbabwe’s international pariah status and wants to make unfortunate and misplaced political scores by saying Tsvangirai lost those elections. Such political naivety will further alienate Mutambara from the generality of Zimbabweans who have been victims of state violence each time there is an election in the country.
It seems clear that given the above, the MDC is not in power not because they lacked an ideology but because the incumbent regime used extra-legal means to hang on to power. More so, the incumbent refused to play by the democratic rules of the game in its conduct of the electoral process in the past elections.
It is therefore critical for Mutambara to appreciate the nature of the crisis in Zimbabwe before he starts showing off through parading his professorship as if he is the first Zimbabwean to attain that status.
Mutambara could take time to consult colleagues in his faction before he makes public pronouncements that are at variance with the history of the country during the years he was out, especially as it relates to how Zimbabwe is where it is today.
I would advise him to appreciate the history of the country from February 2000, the constitutional referendum month, the farm invasions and the murders associated with it and the subsequent electoral disputes to date, so that his public outbursts are in line with Zimbabweans’ views on the electoral history of the country to date.
I am also astonished by some pronouncements that the robotics professor has made so far.
For instance, Mutambara says that if civic organisations such the National Constitutional Assembly, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) and church organisations are partisan, he will not hesitate to form parallel organisations.
Zimbabweans are well aware that Zanu PF is the political master of forming rival unions to those which stand for the wishes of their constituencies. For instance, the ruling party created the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions led by Alfred Makwarimba and Joseph Chinotimba to destabilise the ZCTU, it created the Zimbabwe Teachers Union to destabilise legitimate unions such as the Zimbabwe Teachers Association and the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe.
Zanu PF went further to come up with the Zimbabwe Congress of Students Unions in a bid to destroy Zinasu.
I am therefore at pains to understand what Mutambara is trying to do. In this respect his strategy fits well into the Zanu PF mindset of forming phantom unions in order to weaken legitimate ones. To be more crude, it would not be unfounded to describe him as Zanu PF’s political cousin in so far as the history of destabilisation of political opponents are concerned.
It is clear that from a political science point of view, Mutambara has failed to appreciate the issues at hand. I would recommend him to seek free lessons from Professor Jonathan Moyo, who I think despite his mistakes during his flirtation with the Harare regime, has the proper attributes of a political scientist.
It is my view that instead of spending his time showing Zimbabweans how educated he is with ideological posturing, the robotics professor should address economic and political issues that resonate with the struggling majority of Zimbabweans.
* Pedzisai Ruhanya is former deputy news editor of the banned Daily News.