Arthur Mutambara’s interview with Geraldine Doogue almost passed me by until thousands of miles away sitting in a lonely hotel room sans TV; l went onto the Kubatana website for news of home and came across the extract from his interview. I read with shock his responses to the interviewer. I have always spoken about the need for a different kind of politics in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans deserve politicians who respond to issues without resorting to the use vitriol, who speak without arrogance and who interact with the outside world in the dignified manner befitting their positions as heads or potential heads of state. MDC-M have sold Mutambara as the kind of leader Zimbabweans would be proud to have. His supposed intellect has been touted as holding the key to our success as a nation, but his utterances on ABC radio have for me dealt a mortal blow to these pretensions. His emotional outburst was for me, reminiscent of Mugabe’s infamous Sharm El Sheik incident, when he almost engaged in fisticuffs with one pesky journalist, as he charged “you idiot! You bloody idiot!”
The interviewer started by reading a summary from the Guardian in which Mutambara was referred to as a “shameless opportunist who has appeared to be currying favour with his former enemies” and asked him to respond. He of course denied this accusation. The interviewer then asked whether all the papers which had made similar assertions had got it wrong. This is when the interview went haywire. Mutambara responded by saying, “because they are stupid, they are very stupid”. Mutambara should have stuck to explaining why the papers have got it wrong in suspecting him of cutting deals with the devil. For MDC-M’s information, a lot of Zimbabweans are just as suspicious of him and his role in our crisis. The concern is not necessarily that MDC-M will cut a “bilateral deal from a three-party negotiations framework”- the concern is more about what clandestine clock and dagger deals he has been making outside of the framework. Deals for instance where MDC-M and ZANU PF sponsor the same candidate to run for the seat of the Speaker of the House of Assembly. That is the suspicion and fear. So no, one does not have to be “foolish” or “sick in the mind” to worry about these things happening.
And so to the next issue- the interviewer next asks about transfer of executive power of executive power from the President to Tsvangirai and this is when Mutambara totally loses the plot. After stating that there are some things he cannot discuss in the media, he goes totally ballistic. “Who are you? How dare you undermine our intelligence, how dare you are so racist to the extent that you can’t guarantee us….” (sic). The interviewer tries to interject, presumably to stop the tirade and Mutambara charges “you are collectively stupid!” “Collective foolishness!” The interviewer again tries to stem the flow of vitriol but Mutambara hasn’t finished displaying his intelligence. In his wisdom, the imposition of sanctions while the parties are talking is a travesty of justice. Instead, people should have confidence in Tsvangirai, Mutambara and worse, Mugabe. Really Mr. Mutambara? And this is the brilliant rocket scientist? What about Mugabe’s conduct is supposed to inspire our confidence? The brutal murder of over a hundred perceived political opponents? How about driving 4 million of his people into exile? Oh and let’s not forget reducing the country into a pariah state? Should that inspire our confidence Mr. Mutambara?
The interviewer again tries to put Mutambara back on track and wonders whether the opposition could be walking into the same trap as Nkomo in the 80s. This question unleashes the Neanderthal in Mutambara-literally beating his chest he attacks the interviewer for daring to impugn his intelligence. His response is a cross between caveman and Mugabe. “Do you think I’m stupid? He charges. His pride offended. In a Mugabeesque turn he then goes on to claim “we are smarter than Australians, we are smarter than the Americans, we went to better schools than most of these leaders in America, in Britain and in Australia” He finishes by triumphantly crowing “I am coming out of Oxford! None of your Prime Ministers can challenge me intellectually”.
There goes the paradox. Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Mutambara should sit down and compare notes. They both display an identity crisis of Freudian proportion. The very thing they crave (acceptance by the West) is the thing they loathe (or at least purport to). In one breath the intelligent Prof pours scorn on the Americans, the British and the Australians and in the next breath he crows about his quality education at that quintessentially English Institution-Oxford. The standard by which he measures his intellect is a British standard. The irony is lost on the intelligent Prof. If l were him l would not crow about my supposed intelligence for two reasons; firstly, when you talk about your intelligence but everything you say or do points at the opposite then there is a problem. If l were Geraldine, l would have pointed out that for all their collective intelligence, the three men are still fiddling while the country burns and for all their supposed stupidity and foolishness, the Aussies are still able to feed their country without begging for alms.
But that is beside the point. I started off by saying that we need politicians of a different calibre. People who are of sane and sober senses. Level-headed people who are not shaken by a few unfiltered questions from shrewd journalists. Leaders who do not go ballistic at the first challenge that comes their way. We want leaders who do not have an over-inflated sense of their own importance or indeed their own intelligence. We want humble leaders who are willing to listen to criticism however harsh, because they know they cannot have all the answers. We want compassionate leaders who are pained when their people suffer. “Intelligent” leaders who have eight degrees have brought our country to its knees. “Intelligent” men, who hold PhDs (honorary and earned) have decided that it is better to use scarce foreign currency buying commodities to distribute to the populace at sub-economic prices rather than invest in the country’s production capacity. Intelligent men have turned the Reserve Bank into an Agro Equipment wholesale. “Intelligent” leaders who believe that out of a country of 12 million people only one person has the brains to lead this country have presided over the disaster that is now Zimbabwe. Frankly l have had enough of men who think they are intelligent.