As the MDC-M congress kicks off today, debate has escalated over the reasons for embattled MDC-M president and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara’s apparent loss of popularity with members of his political party.
MDC-M party spokesperson Edwin Mushoriwa said the fact that Mutambara might not be re-elected to be party president during the forthcoming MDC-M National Congress this weekend only showed the diversity in his political party — that the party did not thrive on personalities.
But party members who preferred anonymity said Mutambara’s popularity waned because he was obsessed with government and Global Political Agreement (GPA) issues to the extent that he almost forgot that he was the leader of a political party.
Critics have also said while Mutambara was hardly visible within his political party, his visibility in Parliament and the GPA had become legendary as he concentrated his efforts on promoting issues in those two institutions.
Mushoriwa however dismissed the allegations as spurious and said Mutambara was very instrumental in promoting issues to do with his party.
“These allegations are not true,” said Mushoriwa.
“Mutambara has been working hard in the party and as a member, he sits on various boards and committees and the question of him not being nominated is not about his visibility in the party.” Mushoriwa said the failure by the robotics professor to get nomination for the party presidency was a decision made by various provinces in the country which came up with nominations.
“The different provinces in the country felt that they should move this party forward for the next five years.
We are unlike those political parties that belong to certain individuals. We believe decisions are passed on a collective basis and we do not have a ‘dear leader’ mindset,” said Mushoriwa.
He said in terms of capacity in government, Mutambara had even fared better than President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
“If you look at the two professors in our party, you will find that we have capable people that can do this country some good. People need just to study the goings-on in the GPA and they will find out who the brains and the cement are that have been making the country tick,” Mushoriwa said.
However, political analysts who spoke to NewsDay begged to differ. A media analyst and researcher Takura Zhangazha said Mutambara’s sudden loos of popularity in the MDC-M was because he literally never campaigned for the post of the MDC-M presidency.
“It was almost like an unwritten agreement between the party members and him as an outsider who had a reputation. Even with his reputation, he failed to deliver to the political expectations of people in his party and they lost confidence in him,” said Zhangazha. He said the fact that Mutambara was visible in Parliament did not mean anything for his party because Parliament was not necessarily a political party.
“In Parliament he was playing that role as DPM and for his own reasons, but not for the benefit of his party. Parliament was not his political party,” Zhangazha said.
“His popularity fell because he over-exercised government responsibilities as opposed to political party issues. He took a long time playing government positions rather than those of his political party,” he said.
Political science expert, John Makumbe said Mutambara lost because he was tactless and digressed from his party values by showing support for President Mugabe.
“I think it is largely because he was tactless in his support for Mugabe. He was overly enthusiastic to support whatever Mugabe did or said and that did not go down well with his MDC-M colleagues,” said Makumbe.
Makumbe said Mutambara was also never groomed by his party, nor was he a founder member. The situation worsened when he started chucking out people from the party like former MP for Nkayi, Abednico Bhebhe.
Makumbe also said Mutambara should have tried to keep the party intact instead of behaving like Zanu PF, which victimises people with divergent views.
“Mutambara was very visible in Parliament and the government of national unity, but tactless in the sense that his speeches were more of student politicking rather than statesmanship and they were often embarrassing for his party,” said Makumbe.
“He was a bit immature in his public addresses and he is a politically arrogant fellow,” he said.