Yes, Professor Mutambara is a brilliant computer scientist.

And when he was young, he led a student uprising against ZANU-PF.

But now it looks like the professor is doing a deal with the devil to get power in Zimbabwe, and the story is not a pretty one.

A year ago, there was a lot of confusion among the opposition MDC in Zimbabwe (this is not unusual: Think Hillary versus Obama). There are a lot of different groups that fight with each other all the time: Which is one reason that Mugabe has stayed in power so long.

One segment of the MDC supported cooperating with the next election, and the other smaller segment opposed it.

The smaller group opposing elections were led by a minority tribe Ndebele membere, Ncube. There is a lot of rivalry between the two tribes, so in a political move, in 2006, he was replaced with Mutambara, who belongs to the majority Shona tribe. Another reason was that, as an outsider, Mutambara was not tainted by the political struggles between the various groups.

Fast forward a year: Morgan Tsvangarai, after suffering a beating by Mugabe’s thugs, became a hero,and then the  opposition party MDC won the elections.

Yes, I know “officially” the count was a tie and a run off was scheduled, but it took several weeks to “count” the votes, and a lot of people figure that a lot of creative vote counting was being done…and that despite voter intimidation the vote was so in favor of Tsvangirai that Mugabe didn’t dare pretend that he won in a landslide.

So the backup plan was instigated: terrorize the voters, threaten the villagers (for example tell them they will not get food aid if the village votes incorrectly), and make sure all the members of congress who won seats go into hiding in fear of their lives…and indeed, as a result of the violence, Tsangirai withdrew from the race, allowing Mugabe to “Win” the runoff-election.

The world watched this in silence.

Given a world afraid of direct intervention, and given a compliant South African president Mbeki who essentially has ignored Mugabe’s violence while insisting that “talks” are the way to go.

Except talks are going no where: Mugabe just refuses to cede power.

Enter Matambara.

Last week, Mutambara gave a “Heroes day” speech that blasted the west and echoed the propaganda line of Mugabe’s party. This was seen as a signal that he was planning to make a deal on the side.

Now there are reports that Mutambara has entered into a “side deal” with Mugabe. Theoretically, he could lead his part of the opposition party into a joint government with the ZANU PF party of Mugabe; since the earlier vote was essentially 48-49, this splinter group could give Mugabe the majority he needs under the constitutionThis would allow Mugabe to claim he is in charge of a “coalition” government.

This of course leaves the Tsvangirai segment of the opposition out in the cold.

There is a question if his faction of the opposition knows or approves of this “deal”: The NYTimes reports:

But David Coltart, a senator from the breakaway faction, said that if Mr. Mutambara had made such a side deal — and he had no confirmation that he had — it would have been without a mandate from the faction’s national executive and was highly unlikely to be supported by the faction’s 10 members of Parliament or six senators.

But this doesn’t matter.

This is merely to give countries that don’t care about free elections can go ahead and invest their money while pretending the government is legitamate. (e.g. China).

Presumably, this places Mutambara as a powerful leader to run in future elections.

But in my opinion, Mutambara is a fool if he thinks that the powerful ZANU PF politicians who had been in line to succeed Mugabe will sit back and let him take over should something happen to Mugabe.

This assumes the MDC will be grateful for his dealmaking, which is doubtful, and the ZANU PF politicians who in the past were considered Mugabe’s successors will merely sit back and let him take over.

And then there is the Army: since the elections, the Army has essentially taken over the running of the government and left Mugabe as merely a figurehead.

This usually suggests a military coup is in the future, if Mugabe should die or become incapacitated.

Perhaps Mr. Mutambara should remember the Chinese proverb: He who rides the tiger must beware of the dismount.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She writes about Zimbabwe at Makaipa Blog.