Embattled Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara was on Sunday redeployed to a less glamorous portfolio at the Ministry of Regional Integration and International Co-operation, paving way for newly-elected MDC president Welshman Ncube’s ascendancy to the position of Deputy Premier.
The recalling of Mutambara comes after concerted denials by Ncube, who assumed leadership of the party two weeks ago, that he was set to replace him as DPM.
“Professor Mutambara will continue to be the Deputy Prime Minister. We have agreed that we are not going to redeploy him, as we want to continue tapping from his skills,” said Ncube two weeks ago.
“We know that he has now become an ordinary card-carrying member of the party, but we still want to work with him as he will be taking instructions from the party and representing us in the GPA government.”
But, addressing a press conference in Harare yesterday after the meeting of the party’s National Standing Committee, MDC president Ncube said following extensive deliberations, the party had seen it fit to redeploy Mutambara and other senior party members.
“The feeling of the committee was that the office of the DPM should be occupied by the party’s most senior official,” said Ncube.
“This should not be viewed as a demotion. It’s only that we are new to democracy. It happens in a democracy. If at one time you lead, the next you follow.”
Regional Integration and International Co-operation minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga takes over from Ncube as the Minister of Industry and Commerce.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga also becomes the lead negotiator for the party in the GPA together with Qhubani Moyo, the party’s national organising secretary.
Minister of Education, Arts, Sports and Culture David Coltart and the Co-Minister in the Organ on National Healing, Moses Ndlovu, retained their portfolios.
The redeployments however only become effective after the officials have been sworn-in by President Robert Mugabe.
Quizzed on how Mutambara had reacted upon receiving the news of the redeployment, Ncube said: “We have informed Mutambara and we hope he can accept the decision.
“The party deploys and it is hoped that all loyal cadres follow instructions of the party.”
Efforts to get a comment from Mutambara were fruitless at the time of going to print as his mobile phone was not reachable.
Ncube said he had initially objected to the proposal by the National Standing Committee given the concerns around the lifespan of the inclusive government.
“I had actually objected to the proposal but the party was of the view that even if I become a DPM for one day that should be the way it is,” he 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 is a case in point.
Mutambara was invited by party secretary-general 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.
Ncube said what was left was for the party to notify President Mugabe of the changes and they did not see any reason why he would refuse to accept the changes.