Embattled leader of the smaller faction of the MDC Arthur Mutambara faces a possible revolt and recall from his post in the shaky inclusive government if he loses at the party’s elective congress slated for January 8.
The robotics professor, who switched academics for politics and doubles up as the Deputy Prime Minister, said a fortnight ago he would not stand for the party presidency or any other post at the congress where fireworks are imminent.
He was invited by party secretary-general Welshman Ncube to lead MDC-M in February 2006 following the split of the MDC in 2005 over participation in that year’s senate election called by Zanu PF.
Party spokesperson Edwin Mushoriwa said yesterday it was the prerogative of the party “to deploy and re-deploy” any member of the party as seen fit by the national executive.
“Anyone can be re-assigned to any position that the party feels he or she can best serve,” said Mushoriwa. “The new executive that will be elected at the congress will have the prerogative to decide who occupies whatever position.”
Mushoriwa, however, said Mutambara was yet to formally inform the party of his desire not to be nominated for any position at the forthcoming congress.
Mutambara, widely viewed in political circles as a bundle of confusion, said the congress had caused divisions in his party, but hoped his withdrawal from the race would lead to unity.
“As far as the party is concerned Mutambara is still eligible to stand for any position. Provinces are still free to nominate him. We have only heard of his standing down through the media,” Mushoriwa said.
A political party can recall any of its leaders from government if a resolution is passed to that effect. The recall of former South African President Thabo Mbeki by the African National Congress (ANC) is a case in point.
However, constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku believes Mutambara was in no danger of losing his deputy premiership even if he loses the party presidency.
Madhuku was quoted in the local media saying Mutambara could complete his term of office as long as President Robert Mugabe was happy with his performance, even if he lost his party’s backing in the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
He said recent suggestions by MDC-M that Mutambara could be recalled from government were “nonsensical and have no legal force”.
“There are two things here: the law and political morality,” said Madhuku. “At law, a person in government can either resign or be dismissed. However, in political morality, DPM Mutambara, by virtue of being the leader of his political party, can be asked to resign voluntarily, but he can refuse to go. There is no legal requirement.”
The combative NCA chairman said the fact that Mutambara had not offered himself for re-election at his party’s congress in January did not mean he was out of government.
“There is no such language as recalling in this country. It’s the ANC language and it’s nonsensical.
Mutambara was sworn in by the President in terms of Amendment number 19 Act and that is the Constitution,” he said.
“It is only (President) Mugabe who can either force him to resign or dismiss him, if he is not happy with his performance. The GPA is not the Constitution and is a separate arrangement. So, Mutambara is likely to complete his term in the inclusive government,”
Mutambara was a student activist between 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 President Mugabe’s praise singer, one of the reasons why his popularity has nose dived.
For months, daggers have been drawn between MDC-M leader Arthur Mutambara and his secretary-general Welshman Ncube in the looming battle for control of the smaller faction of the MDC.
Mutambara, who once worked closely with the US space agency, NASA, said he would remain an ordinary card-carrying member of the MDC-M.
Mushoriwa said at least 5 000 delegates were expected to converge at the Harare City Sports Centre for the congress next month.
He said registration of delegates was already in progress adding that police had already been notified of the gathering as stipulated under Posa.