Having been incarcerated and put away to moulder by the settler regime in 1964, the then nationalist leaders of Zanu and Zapu woke up to the reality that there was need to mobilise the masses against Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Ian Smith’s Anglo-Rhodesian constitutional proposals of 1971, which were to be put to a test of acceptability in the Pearce Commission Referendum.
The challenge was on how to do so, while handicapped by the incarceration.
Without conniving, both parties settled on Abel Muzorewa, the first African bishop in the then Rhodesia, as the man for the job.
Bishop Muzorewa, though a man of the cloth and not a politician at that time, was making very bold political pronouncements in all his speeches, challenging the colonial order of the day, much like the Catholic Bishop Donald Lamont, who was in the then Umtali Diocese, who was later to be deported, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.
Bishop Muzorewa delivered a resounding “No” vote against the proposals.
But in their scheme of things, both Zanu and Zapu had intended Bishop Muzorewa to be an expendable, man-made “single-use disposable politician”, much like a disposable diaper.
They didn’t think that the bishop, who had a mind of his own, would develop an appetite and an addiction for full-time politics as later happened.
They saw him as someone unlikely to pause a threat to their positions.
But the experiment went terribly wrong for them and turned into a real Frankenstein parody when the bishop opted for full-time politics.
Asked later, why he opted to remain in politics and not to return to the pulpit full-time, the bishop said it was his prerogative to so chose, like any other Zimbabwean.
The nationalists’ reason for asking Muzorewa to hold fort while they were away is clearly understandable.
But what was going through Professor Welshman Ncube’s mind when he settled on an outsider, Arthur Mutambara, for the position of president for his breakaway MDC?
Mutambara was not even a practising politician, if at all. At best, he had merely been a student leader at university at some turbulent time; thereafter, he had pursued his robotics career in the Diaspora.
Why couldn’t the breakaway MDC settle for one of their number, to head their party, instead of opting for a total stranger who had no political credentials to talk of, and was not even a member of their party?
One reason is that, it was common knowledge then, that Ncube’s break-away group preferred to be headed by a Shona rather than a Ndebele, to prevent the risk of being looked upon as a tribal clique.
But they had Gift Chimanikire in their higher echelons, then, why did they not settle for him, if the idea was simply to look for a Shona?
Could it be that Chimanikire, a mercurial character with a temper to match, was deemed too hot and too hard to handle, therefore not easy to remove thereafter?
What has changed now, for them not to head-hunt for yet another Shona, if indeed this was the consideration?
It’s clear that Ncube was the active ingredient and ringmaster and grandmaster of the ploy, being a cunning and razor-sharp schemer.
Did Mutambara think that landing in a presidency of a political party, through the roof, without breaking a sweat, would be a permanent and sustainable windfall or did he know that he was merely being used, like we all knew, to incubate Ncube’s grand agenda?
He certainly would have been very naïve to think that he had been so anointed for any quality that he had.
He was simply another Muzorewa – a chicken, sitting on a guinea-fowl’s eggs.
Did Ncube harbour similar thoughts in respect of eventually replacing Morgan Tsvangirai, before the break-up, but found a formidable Tsvangirai an impossible opponent to unseat, hence the breakaway, on the Senate debacle pretext?
And so it came to pass that Mutambara was finally gotten rid of as president of MDC-M.
No one needed to be a clairvoyant to know that the writing was on the wall that, that “Moses” would never make it to the promised land of “Canaan” — Mutambara was expendable — it had been designed that way.
He also played into Ncube’s grand strategy by his often irrational loose-cannon antics.
On many occasions he was an absolute clown and an embarrassment to his party with his feigned and exaggerated revolutionary rhetoric and idiosyncrasies that tended to mimic accomplished and original nationalists of old, like Ndabaningi Sithole.
Surely an intelligent man like Mutambara should have known that he was a mere pawn on Ncube’s chessboard.
We all did. And when he was ripe and ready, we heard the bells toll, and we knew it was game over.
He was never designed to survive beyond a congress.
And when the day of reckoning came, it was a fait accompli and a bloodless coup with Mutambara somberly striking a measure of solemn misery with his “lamb to the slaughter” demeanour!
I spared a moment of sombre reflection for the poor fellow, in his somewhat Sunday school behaviour, as the curtain came down on his short career, for I always had a feeling of sadness when the matador performs the final act of slaughtering the bull.
And, Ncube, with the indifference of an executioner, and in typical Mark Antony fashion, hammered the last nail into the coffin of a brief career that was never meant to be, with succulent but callous and cold words of cynical appreciation of Mutambara’s “contribution”.
He went on to say Mutambara would remain deployed as Deputy Prime Minister as his party did not subscribe to recalling. If Mutambara believed that, then he will believe anything.
Will Mutambara ever rise from the dead? Maybe. . . maybe not, only time will tell. Or will the robotics professor who is widely viewed in political circles as a bundle of confusion be swallowed into the belly of the beast.