Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Is Mutambara the Answer?

I hope you read Eddie Cross' insightful post from a couple days ago. He does an excellent job of painting the context surrounding Arthur Mutambara's reemergence in Zimbabwean politics.

If you didn't know, Zimbabwe's uninspired media is caught up in the "Hail King Arthur frenzy." Mutambara grabbed headlines after his formal return to Zimbabawean politics over the weekend. He joins the Welshman Ncube or what used to be known as the pro-senate faction of the MDC (read post below for more context).

It is only fitting to ask if the new kid on the block is for real. To figure out some of that we must delve into his past. Mutambara rose to national prominence during 1989 as a student leader at the University of Zimbabwe. Then a firebrand "toyi-toying" radical, Mutambara's leadership shook ZANU-PF grip on Zimbabwe when they led riots on the University Campus and issued a statement which said among other things,
Who in this government can have the audacity and credibility to criticise the De-Klerk regime in South Africa? Or are we even worse than De-Klerk? Ian Smith never banned political seminars at this university…That one fought for this country does not justify them to loot, plunder and wreck the economy of Zimbabwe and let alone stifle people’s democratic rights….You can’t push a cat into a corner- after all we are not cats but tigers! Defeat is not our agenda!
In short, Mutambara captured the nation's imagination as a young volatile intellect who was not content with the status quo. He was rhetorically captivating, had a dazzling charisma and was enigmatic. Nostalgia from these days is the impetus behind the cultic worship he is receiving from many in Zimbabwe's media corps.

Since then, he gone on to attain global acclaim for his intellectual prowess in robotics. He earned his Ph.D from Oxford has taught at MIT, FSU, Florida A&M, Carnegie Mellon University, and UNISA. He has worked for NASA, McKinnsey & Co., Standard Bank in South Africa, and the Africa Technology and Business Institute, which he currently is in charge of.

Far from the haze of glory shrouding Mutambara's meeting with the MDC faction over the weekend, those know the man from his days of old seem critical at best of his success in this endeavor. Itai Zimunya, a former student leader and activist notes,
It is from this history that we draw our assertion that, whilst we celebrate Mutambara’s entry into full time politics, his past may haunt his future. Firstly, the statement of October 2 1989 remains true today and the first question is, shall Mutambara remain so confrontational and militant in his political approach to Zanu PF? Any deviation from this mass based political approach, which does appear to be the idea of the MDC pro-senate, might soil his revolutionary history.

Secondly, Mutambara might find it challenging to work with people whose past was at variance with the principles he espoused. A senior official of the MDC pro-senate was a senior legal officer of the University of Zimbabwe, and contributed immensely to the suspension of other student leaders like Brian Kagoro and Tendai Biti, among many who championed the same cause as that of AGO.

Thirdly, Mutambara, though he has every right and freedom to join and associate with any person of his choice, must not forget that political power comes from the people. It is the same Morgan Tsvangirai who was not educated in 1989 who came to his rescue and was incarcerated for that. He remains the same uneducated fellow and while not suggesting that Mutambara must pay back Tsvangirai by siding with him, any moves towards negotiating with Zanu PF will quickly discredit him that he will go to the political abyss like Jonathan Moyo, whose rich political past was soiled by his fellowship with Zanu PF.
In a way Mutambara has almost gone full circle by returning to the movement that once stood up for him, and whose DNA is structured on some of work he did at the University of Zimbabwe.

Now we wait to see if he is the phoenix that will rise from the ashes that are Zimbabwe. Is Arthur G.O. Mutambara the answer?

  • << Home