30 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Mutambara Caught in Gulf of Legitimacy

DEPUTY Prime Minister (DPM) Arthur Mutambara is resisting the dismissal of five legislators and 41 councillors by Welshman Ncube's formation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), saying the Industry and Commerce Minister had no right to do so.

DPM Mutambara, who is engaged in court battles with Ncube over the leadership of the MDC following his ouster as president of the party two years ago, argues that all the officials "purported" to have been dismissed belong to him and nobody, other than himself, has the right to disengage them from the MDC.

There are indications that the robotics professor grouping may go to the courts should push come to shove in order to protect their positions in Parliament, councils and in the MDC.

Politically, DPM Mutambara could have been finished by now were it not for the support he enjoys from the other principals in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) namely President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister (PM) Morgan Tsvangirai.

By clinging to the coattails of the other GPA principals, Mutambara has found a new lease of political life to cause all sorts of problems for the MDC.

Despite winning public sympathy, Ncube has been fighting alone at the top. He has since taken his case to the Southern African Development Community, which guaranteed the GPA along with the African Union.

Ncube accuses both President Mugabe and PM Tsvangirai of shielding Mutambara and allowing him to masquerade as one of the three principals in the GPA despite his ouster from the leadership of the MDC.

The latest dispute proves that indeed there is no love lost between Ncube and Mutambara.

Last week, Ncube fired Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, Nomalanga Khumalo, Thandeko Zindi Mkandla of Gwanda North, Maxwell Dube of Tsholotsho South, Senators Kembo Dube of Umzingwane South, and Dalumuzi Khumalo of Lupane, for allegedly being sympathetic to PM Tsvangirai.

In 2009, Ncube expelled Abednico Bhebhe (Nkayi South), Njabuliso Mguni (Lupane East) and Norman Mpofu (Bulilima East) for similar reasons.

He is now left with three House of Assembly members, Moses Mzila Ndlovu, Edward Mkhosi and Patrick Dube as well as David Coltart in the Senate to make it only four elected representatives.

Obviously, by resisting the latest dismissals Mutambara has found an ally in PM Tsvangirai whose party, the MDC-T, blames Ncube for the 2005 split and for making inroads in its Matabeleland stronghold.

Mutambara argues that Ncube cannot claim legitimacy in the GPA when he has fired about 70 percent of popularly elected members.

Analyst, however, say the DPM Mutambara could be desperately seeking legitimacy by refusing to accept the firing of the MDC officials which could have weakened his court arguments by making it appear as if he has no say in the MDC.

In separate letters to the president of the Senate, Edna Madzongwe and the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Lovemore Moyo, Mutambara ridiculed Ncube's actions, claiming the professor of constitutional law had no right to dismiss the officials, further claiming the legislators were elected into the august house under his party's ticket.

"There have been reports and statements to the effect that members of the Senate (and House of Assembly) have been expelled from the MDC by a group of individuals led by Welshman Ncube. Letters to this effect have been written to your offices, with the intention to effectively terminate their membership of Parliament. This note serves to ask you to disregard this illegal communication based on illegitimate actions," reads part of DPM Mutambara's letter to Madzongwe and Moyo.

"These legislators were elected under my leadership as the president of the MDC. Both the issue of whether Welshman Ncube was duly elected president of the MDC in January 2011, and the matter of the legitimacy of the corresponding MDC Congress are before the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe. Consequently, all these issues are sub judice. Hence, the entire leadership led by Welshman Ncube, has no locus standi to expel members from the MDC. Hence they cannot purport to terminate the Parliamentary membership of any sitting member of the MDC," he added.

Mutambara further argued that once the Supreme Court has ruled in its favour in both the two pending Supreme Court cases, only then can the leadership led by Ncube take action against the Members of Parliament.

He added: "Even in this scenario, how do you fire more than 70 percent of your elected representatives, and remain legitimate as a party leader and as a government minister? This has never happened in the history of constitutional democracies."

Analysts said DPM Mutambara was determined to use every available avenue to finish-off his current term as the DPM of the coalition government, which is likely to be dissolved anytime next year in time for fresh harmonised polls.

Analysts say DPM Mutambara cannot afford to allow his claim to power to be eroded by the firing of legislators and councillors that give him a semblance of relevancy in the coalition government although it was still not clear if the expelled legislators and councillors have any allegiance to him.

Trevor Maisiri, a senior political analyst with the Crisis International Group, said there has been some efforts by DPM Mutambara to try and recreate his political life by forming a splinter political party and trying to capitalise on a political event that he was not party to its evolution.

"DPM Mutambara is caught in a 'gulf of illegitimacy'. He cannot be DPM without being a principal. To be a principal he needs a backing political party. His efforts in claiming the MPs could also be a way of addressing this glaring and embarrassing illegitimacy," said Maisiri.

Tapera Kapuya, a political analyst based in Australia, said Mutambara was engaging in politics of survival.

"There is no deeper affinity between them -- if anything, this is strictly a technicality set-up where DPM Mutambara's claim to them is to borrow legitimacy and their claim to him is to retain their offices and positions. Mutambara can only soldier on to the extent to which residual legitimacy exists -- which is a claim to sitting Members of Parliament.

"It places him back into the position of 'principal' to the GPA, which itself is existentially a creature of those leaders who have members in Parliament. In a way, this is a coup, however temporary, for him against Welshman Ncube," said Kapuya.

Blessing Vava, a Harare-based political analyst, described DPM Mutambara as a confused politician.

He said it was still fresh in most people's minds that DPM Mutambara participated and endorsed Ncube at the party's congress, meaning that he was happy about what happened at that meeting.

But now the DPM is clutching at straws as an afterthought.

"He is now an injured politician who lacks consistency and seriousness and his actions are now a show of desperation for him to continue saving in the government as DPM," noted Vava.

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