Zimbabwe Presidential Candidates Individually Scrutinized: Arthur Mutambara


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Zimbabwe-He rose to prominence through Presidency of the Student Representative Council at the University of Zimbabwe in the late eighties.

That flagrant role made him the first SRC leader to question the skewed governance of the post-independence majority rule. Many viewed him as a hero for his valor and candor as a leader and he won the hearts of many across the social circles some of whom needed an awakening alarm to remind them that all was not so well in the independence euphoria as led by the elected black leaders. The death of Samora Machel in October 1986 leading to the early demonstrations along Second Street and in Belgravia, Harare by the UZ community attracted riot police attention and the message became clear. There was looming  disgruntlement not only against imperialist forces of darkness but also against the purported leadership that was slowly putting on some gear of despotism especially as practiced against the UZ student activism and those questioning issues like the Willowgate scandal and the similar scene mysterious nocturnal traffic accidents with stationery Puma military trucks that claimed many vocal heroes of the day. At the material time Mutambara spearheaded serious protests that triggerd nasty clashes with the riot police and was at some time arrested for his vocal behavior and courage to say the truth against government.

As he stole the hearts of many through his leadership capabilities that set a rare precedent in Independent Zimbabwe, his name became a buzz in the country. At the UZ community, all subsequent SRC leaders perceived his leadership traits as having set the standard precedent that had to be emulated or followed. His vision set a high mark and reflected vision, pragmatism and progressive thinking. Arthur’s reign was during the days of Walter Kamba who also later resigned as he alleged excessive interference in the autonomy of the UZ as an institution. Kamba had believed in academic freedom, autonomy of the UZ and the need for students to research and also transform their academia to resolve prevailing burning society issues. Preaching to them to avoid being white elephants or irrelevant book worms with no direct benefit to the society, Kamba encouraged that the UZ be connected to the politics and economics of the day through student participation and exploration of realistic solutions. The constant monitoring and interference by government authorities was a trigger for Walter Kamba to throw in the towel as he alleged “too many fingers pointing at me.”

By the time Mutambara earned his Engineering degree and left Zimbabwe to pursue post graduate studies in England and then to America, many remembered his name on their cards as a potentially- great leader. As the economic and political condition continued to deteriorate, the frequency of his name on leadership potential cards became more even more defined.

The time MDC-N of Ncube invited him to join camp became like an opportune moment that pleased many who viewed his vibrancy as the ultimate solution to some of the main issues bedeviling Zimbabwe. Soon after his debut into national politics, many were taken aback as allegations that he could undermine Tsvangirai’s MDC emerged. His credibility was placed into question as many questioned the motive for such a statement when many folks welcomed the opposition politics as a checks and balance measure to the fast-waning Zanu PF popularity hand on government affairs. Over time he would identify with various social groups and utter contradictory statements that would make many confused as to whether he was the promised one or the electorate should wait for another. To date, he does not have a solid base because of his vacillating character and costly statements in public. Some believe he speaks t match the weather of the day and seems not moved about gauging his statements to match the ground reality. Be that as it may, he remains the Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, a position that he won effortlessly without any censure, ridicule, sweat or explanation. Some guys have all the luck.

His Strengths

Mutambara has had diverse experience at the international arena through teaching, research and working. He has travelled the world and has been exposed to various systems that could actually be exploited to his advantage if he wanted.  If he could utilize such experience in business, engineering and leadership, he could potentially be a great leader who taps lots of great ideas from other jurisdictions.

He is educated, young and ambitious and he remains confident of his status regardless of public perceptions and ratings. He speaks freely and could be a great orator if he crafted his words to match the reality on the ground and also sound connected. Despite emotion, he at times debates well and is factual. He dresses well and can mix and mingle with many folks across the political divide because he has crossed over from the disgruntled to the ruling class.

His background from student leadership days, to his brief stint with NASA and then in South Africa all make him potentially a possible leader who can breathe in new ideas and strategy that can give new life to the national economy. All the experiences have been noted either through his CV or through his great ideas that are documented and at times come out through his conferences and rallies.

The international business symposia that he has arranged and also attended have marketed the Zimbabwe brand at international level. His visits to China and various other European and African countries have helped remind the world at large that Zimbabwe is still a great destination capable of promoting the right investment climate. The only issue has been that the speeches are divorced from the ground reality in some cases.

His age could be of relevance to the leadership of today because he reminds the old guard of the new ways to incorporate the youth and their interests in public policy.

He also has been reputable for his dream and futuristic approach to revamp Zimbabwe and make a turn around on the economy and infrastructure. He has great ideas that await execution and when he talks, he expresses urgency as he appeals for national team-building efforts.

In summary he is young, energetic, ambitious, eloquent at times and well-connected. He could turn his situation and circumstances into leverage for him to be a great leader.

His weaknesses

Mutambara is agnostic and lacks confidence to rule. He does not realize the potential he carries at hand and believes in serving under other teams to have comfort and protection. His current middle of the road approach to politics could send him back to public service as he leaves politics through being infamous.


While Mutambara started well with lots of promise, he was quick to disappoint. Many were soon packing to leave his camp as erstwhile supporters. He was quick to bow hot and cold as he confused people who kept wondering as to which side he really belonged. Sounding drunk or not certain about which side he belonged, many started questioning his rightful agenda. At some rallies he would be openly supporting Zanu Pf and at others he would be in full force against Zanu PF. So many would be wondering as to his objectivities as he kept juggling and taking chances to blow hot and cold as he also could be a turncoat in midday. Such vacillations derailed his standing as a genuine politician and many could have been forgiven for concluding that he was not sure which side could benefit him more and when.


Ever since he started having issues with Ncube’s MDC-N, Mutambara has been struggling to be relevant in Zimbabwean politics. In some instances he goes ballistics forgetting that he is a leader of an opposition party. Such open association and protection that he continually receives from President Mugabe has left many wondering as to which side he truly belongs. Many may be forgiven for taking him as a Zanu PF member in waiting or as a leader who is sitting on the fence as he awaits to pick a side that strengthens his career, interests and welfare. He seems to be bankrupt of real ideas that could transform his situation into a credible opposition politics stance. Through the protection and defense that he continually gets from President Mugabe who now views him as his close ally, he should openly join Zanu PF unless he wants to encounter a sudden glitch on his political ambitions. Given his character and conduct in the GNU, he has some work to do to justify his standing as a serious politician for Presidency.


For the DPM to be in office today, he remains thankful and a loyal admirer to President Mugabe. With Mugabe facing upcoming political doldrums due to mounting opposition, Mutambara already knows that his days could be numbered on the political terrain. The post Mugabe politics may not be so affable to his compromised stance and he will find more hardships in reassuring the electorate that he is not a wolf in a sheep skin. The best for him could be to head straight to Zanu PF ranks and find a convenient seat.


At a 2012 SADC meeting, President Mugabe openly supported and defended Mutambara’s appearance as a GNU leader in place of Ncube. That motion was unanimously rejected by SADC and politically interpreted as the regional bloc’s chiding to the once mighty President.


In a nutshell, the local support for Mutambara has been shaky. Many do not really trust him because they never know what he can say or do. Worst case scenario could see him openly embrace Zanu Pf and stay within the political arena as an ideal tool to rejuvenate the fast-waning party. Many perceive him as someone not really serious in executing opposition politics because his past skills and leadership talent and oratory do not match up or explain his current inertia. Resultantly many view him with suspicion as he could exist to spoil votes and further division. For that reason, whatever he attempts at doing for Zimbabwean politics, he is taken for someone not really doing the serious business of trying to salvage a situation. He is viewed as someone who has tasted the benefits of power and will do anything to defend his stay in office. Given his vacillations, he could potentially be not a good leader once entrusted with power.


Some media reports earlier on this year that he flies to Sandton South Africa every weekend to see his family there did not create a good public impression. As a leader, such a stance placed him in a position through which he was communicating his lack of confidence with the system he presided over. It could be deteriorating schools, infrastructure, absence of market goods or desired comfort levels or boredom that triggered him to have his family resident outside Zimbabwe thereby causing him to fly to South Africa every weekend. As a leader, that dented his standing.


As a point of advice, Mutambara must desist from openly associating with Robert Mugabe since he is an opposition politics leader. While they should not be enemies, he should work for his independence and serve those that put him into office. He should also not take people for granted. There is also a difference between student activism and real national politics. His past glory has not matched his current output that has remained questionable and suspicious.  His flip-flop agenda and a well-noted connection with President Mugabe and Zanu PF could be the cause for his downfall. He should walk his talk and define his true side as he openly lets Zimbabwe know which party he truly belongs to. Without such openness, his ratings continue to go down. That means his advisors have a duty to be candid and honest to tell him the painful truth. He could be in some make-believe world of his own where he assumes as of right that he will on some great day, rule Zimbabwe. It’s about time he checked through the social window and see the political weather for a possible adjustment.

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