MDC-M leader Arthur Mutambara Friday announced that he will not be standing for the party presidency or any other post at the party’s congress next month.
He said he would remain an ordinary member of the party.
The announcement came a few hours after the MDC-M Harare province had announced that it was backing Professor Welshman Ncube to take over the presidency at the party’s congress to be held in Harare on January 8 and 9.
Mutambara’s withdrawal from the race clears the way for Ncube, who has not hidden his leadership ambitions.
“I am not running for re-election at the next congress. I have done my part and I would like to give an opportunity to other colleagues to assume leadership positions. My time was productive and it’s time for another leader,” Mutambara said in an interview from Victoria Falls.
Mutambara said the congress had caused divisions in his party but hoped his withdrawal from the race would lead to unity.
“By not participating, I hope there will be unity in the party. I’m not standing for any nomination in the provincial councils or leadership positions but I will remain a member of the party. I don’t have to be a leader to be politically involved,” he said.
Mutambara said he would work for a good congress and hand over power to the person elected by the people.
Mutambara was invited to lead MDC-M leader in February 2006 following the split of MDC in 2005, with Ncube playing in critical part in his ascendency to the party’s top post.
He however did not contest the 2008 presidential elections preferring instead to throw his weight behind Mavambo leader, Simba Makoni who came a distant third behind MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Zanu PF leader Robert Mugabe.
Tsvangirai won the first round of elections but did not garner enough votes to assume the presidency resulting in a run-off being called between him and Mugabe.
He however withdrew from the race citing violence and the intimidation of his supporters resulting in Mugabe running alone, deepening the country’s political crisis which led to a government of national unity being formed, under which Mutambara, as the leader of the MDC-M was appointed Deputy Prime Minister.
Mutambara was a noted leader of the student movement within Zimbabwe in 1988 and 1989, leading anti-government protests at the University of Zimbabwe which led to his arrest and imprisonment.
His critics have however accused him of being Mugabe’s praise singer, one of the reasons why his popularity warned in the MDC-M.