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Isolated Mutambara forced to step down as leader

By Never Kadungure (Chief Political Editor)

Rocket scientist and Deputy Prime Minister Professor Arthur Mutambara was finally forced to quit as leader of the MDC-M party after vicious jockeying for power between him and Secretary General Welshman Ncube left him isolated.

On Friday the former student leader said he would not be standing for the party presidency or any other provincial post at the MDC-M congress in January next year. He will still remain an ordinary member of the party contrary to wild speculation he was considering jumping ship to join the larger MDC-T party.

It has been a turbulent few months for Mutambara with vicious infighting within his party seeing Welshman Ncube and Deputy Secretary General Priscilla Misihairambwi Mushonga allegedly moving around the provinces ‘unconstitutionally removing elected officials perceived loyal to Mutambara.

Mutambara’s supporters say the inseparable Ncube and Mushonga replaced those loyal to Mutambara with their own people. The net result of all these manoeuvres they say has been the endorsement of Ncube as candidate for party president courtesy of the same newly installed provincial structures.

“I am not running for re-election at the next congress. I have done my part and I would like to give an opportunity to other colleagues to assume leadership positions. My time was productive and it’s time for another leader,” Mutambara said in an interview from Victoria Falls.

“By not participating, I hope there will be unity in the party. I’m not standing for any nomination in the provincial councils or leadership positions but I will remain a member of the party. I don’t have to be a leader to be politically involved,” he said.

Analysts however say when the MDC split up in 2005, Ncube only invited Mutambara to become the ‘Shona’ face of the party as part of a strategy to try and compete against the popular Morgan Tsvangirai and his bigger formation of the MDC. The dynamics they say have changed and Ncube now feels he is ready to step into Mutambara’s shoes. 

Mutambara stepping down might turn out to be a blessing in disguise. With so many defections from the MDC-M to the MDC-T by senior officials, councillors and former MP’s its thought the party is headed for its worst electoral showing in its short history and will lose the majority of its 10 parliamentary seats won in the March 2008 election.

Ncube a professor of law who wants to lead the party could not even beat former railway security guard and now Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe in the Makokoba parliamentary constituency elections. Ordinary people consider Ncube’s brand of politics as arrogant and aloof and have made the message clear through the ballot box.

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