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Mutambara announces intention to contest MDC presidency

Former student leader Arthur Mutambara announced on 19 February 2006 that he was intending to run for the presidency of the pro-senate faction of the Movement for Democratic Change.

His only challenge for leadership was Gift Chimanikire who was deputy secretary of the faction following the split of the party four months earlier over whether to participate in the senate elections or not.

Mutambara appeared to be the favourite with the United States embassy describing his opponent as “uninspiring and not well-regarded”. He was also reportedly the anointed candidate by Welshman Ncube who was the secretary general of the faction but was regarded as the de facto leader.

Mutambara was reportedly involved in discussions in 2004 about a breakaway party associated with Ncube that never came to fruition.

The announcement of Mutambara’s candidacy prompted the Herald to come up with a cartoon of Morgan Tsvangirai in a Union Jack hat being symbolically booted out in favour of a Stars-and-Stripes-clad Mutambara.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 06HARARE215, FORMER STUDENT LEADER EMERGES AS PRO-SENATE

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

06HARARE215

2006-02-23 13:42

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000215

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B. NEULING

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE

USAID/AFR/SA FOR E. LOKEN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2016

TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL ZI MDC

SUBJECT: FORMER STUDENT LEADER EMERGES AS PRO-SENATE

FACTION LEADERSHIP CANDIDATE

 

REF: A. HARARE 95

 

B. 2004 PRETORIA 1865 (NOTAL)

 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell for reasons 1.5 b/d

 

——-

Summary

——-

 

1. (C) On February 19, former student leader Arthur

Mutambara, who now resides in South Africa, announced his

decision to run for president of the pro-senate faction of

the MDC. A number of pro-senate MDC MPs expressed strong

support for Mutambara and said he would breathe new life into

the party, especially since he was not involved in the MDC

split. One pro-senate MP speculated that he could reunify

the party because of the level of support for him from both

factions. The pro-boycott faction of the MDC has been silent

on Mutambara. End summary.

 

—————————————-

Mutambara Vies for Pro-senate Leadership

—————————————-

 

2. (U) On February 19, former University of Zimbabwe student

leader Arthur Mutambara arrived in Zimbabwe to announce his

intention to run for president of the pro-senate faction of

the MDC. Mutambara would compete for the presidency against

deputy secretary general Gift Chimanikire at the pro-senate

faction’s congress scheduled for February 25-26 in Bulawayo.

Mutambara, a Rhodes scholar who holds a PhD in Robotics from

Oxford University, has been living in South Africa where he

is the managing director of Africa Technology and Business

Institute. Mutambara is best known in Zimbabwe for leading

student protests against government corruption in the late

1980s as president of the University of Zimbabwe’s Student

Representative Council. He was reportedly involved in

discussions in 2004 about a breakaway party associated with

Ncube that never came to fruition (ref B). In a February 20

press statement explaining his decision, Mutambara said that

it was the duty of Zimbabwean citizens to develop solutions

to th

e country’s problems. He said that to achieve reunification

the MDC required an “infusion of new leadership, untainted by

current disagreements.”

 

—————————-

Strong Support for Mutambara

—————————-

 

3. (C) MDC pro-senate faction MP and parliamentary

spokesperson Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga told poloff on

February 22 that Mutambara had a lot of support at all levels

of the party, from ordinary citizens, and from civil society,

and would likely win the presidency of the faction. (NB:

Embassy local staff report that among people living in high

density areas of Harare the news was overshadowed by reports

that the GOZ had released to the pro-senate faction MDC’s

share of funds provided to political parties.) According to

Mushonga, Gift Chimanikire, who had been planning to run for

the presidency, was rethinking his position. Although at one

time he was the only likely candidate, Chimanikire did not

have enough grass roots support and would likely back down

from running against Mutambara on the advice of other

pro-senate faction leaders. Mushonga was confident

Chimanikire would come around and ultimately support

Mutambara.

 

4. (C) Mushonga said that since the announcement the

pro-senate faction had been inundated with calls from

individuals who had not been planning to attend the faction’s

congress and were now enthusiastic to do so. Countering

statements made in the Government-sponsored Herald newspaper

criticizing Mutambara for having been out of the country for

more than a decade, she said that his experience dealing with

other parts of Africa would be an asset to the MDC, as he

could apply lessons learned from those experiences to the

situation in Zimbabwe. Mutambara represented a fresh

infusion into a party full of leaders who had been around

since 1999 and who needed a new perspective. Her main

concern was that there would be high expectations for him to

achieve much in the immediate future when he would need to be

settle in and get to know the party. In an e-mail praising

Mutambara on February 20, previously faction-neutral MP David

Coltart emphasized that Mutambara was untainted by the split

and said that Mutambara w

as “one of Zimbabwe’s brightest sons.”

 

——————-

Effect on MDC Split

——————-

 

5. (C) Mushonga said that Mutambara’s election would attract

leaders from the pro-boycott faction to his side. Mushonga

said that ordinary citizens who had been disappointed and

discouraged by the split in the MDC were now energized. In

an e-mail on February 20, pro-senate faction MP Trudy

Stevenson said that Zimbabweans had found this renewed energy

because a prominent countryman was returning home. She said

his return would persuade others in the diaspora to return.

For its part, the Tsvangirai-led pro-boycott faction has been

surprisingly silent on Mutambara’s reentry into Zimbabwean

politics.

 

——–

Bio Note

——–

 

6. (U) Mutambara is currently Managing Director of Africa

Technology and Business Institute, a professional advisory

services firm operating in 13 African countries; a Principal

Consultant with MAC Consulting; and Professor of Operations

Management with the School of Business Leadership at the

University of South Africa. Prior to that he held positions

as Director of Payments at Standard Bank in South Africa

(2002-2003) and Management Consultant at McKinsey and Company

in Chicago. Mutambara was a visiting research fellow or

scientist at MIT (1999-2000), Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics

Institute (1998), NASA (1996-1997), and Florida State

University (1995-1997). Mutambara was awarded both Rhodes

and Fulbright scholarships (1991). He holds a PhD in

Robotics and Megatronics from Oxford University (1995), a

Master of Science in Electrical Engineering and Computer

Engineering from Oxford (1992), and a Bachelor of Science in

Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the University of

Zimbabwe (1990).

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

7. (C) In a likely contest with Chimanikire for president of

the MDC’s pro-senate faction, Mutambara is the odds on

favorite. The transplanted intellectual appears to be

Welshman Ncube’s anointed candidate as an alternative to the

uninspiring and not well-regarded Chimanikire, after Tendai

Biti turned down overtures from the pro-senate faction (ref

A). Apparently confident of Ncube’s ability to deliver a

victory, we understand that Mutambara has returned to his

home in South Africa. Mutambara might indeed possess the

charisma to bring more popular support and breathe new life

into the squabbling pro-senate faction, at least in the short

term. His appeal, however, lies principally with Zimbabwe’s

dwindling middle class, and his ability to connect with the

more numerous low-income masses is untested at this point.

Also, as an exile returning home from years abroad, he may

have difficulty proving his commitment to some

constituencies–although his resume credentials as a former

student leader hold out some

room for optimism. His chemistry with Ncube, who remains

the key intellectual force in the pro-senate faction, is

another key, unknown variable that will likely be a decisive

factor in determining his effectiveness. Today’s

state-controlled Herald featured a cartoon of Morgan

Tsvangirai in a Union Jack hat being symbolically booted out

 

SIPDIS

in favor of a Stars-and-Stripes-clad Mutambara, an

interesting analysis suggestive of a possible ZANU-PF line of

attack against him. End comment.

DELL

 

(21 VIEWS)

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