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Is Mutambara His Own Man?
[February 22, 2006]

Is Mutambara His Own Man?

( English Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)Harare, Feb 22, 2006 (The Herald/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) --IT is four days to the second or is it first congress of the MDC faction led by party vice-president, Gibson Sibanda; and as anticipated, the drama has already unfolded with the fractious MDC's amoeba legacy manifesting itself again.

Two of the faction's top-four leaders expressed interest in the post of party president; Gift Chimanikire (deputy secretary general) and Gibson Sibanda (vice-president and current acting president).

But what surprised many was the entry of a rank outsider; the 39-year-old former University of Zimbabwe student leader, Professor Arthur Mutambara. A man who has not even lived, let alone worked in Zimbabwe over the past 15 years and who was not in the trenches in the MDC's formative years. The party's South African branch even disowned him saying he was not even an active member.

Also astounding was secretary general, Professor Welshman Ncube's admission that any card-carrying member of the MDC can contest for the party presidency. By this proviso, if someone were to buy the MDC card today, they could stroll to the congress in Bulawayo and fight it out with founder members like the long-suffering deputy secretary general.

Chimanikire felt rightly used by his Matabeleland colleagues who made him believe the top-job was his simply by virtue of being the Shona-face among a band, the Tsvangirai-group derisively dubbed "three Ndebeles and a white rebel."

But who is Mutambara, and why did Ncube, Sibanda and Dulini-Ncube risk the fragile unity in their faction by bringing him in? Was it their decision -- if not -- who was behind it?

From his resume, Mutambara is more of an academic than a politician.Born on May 25 1966, the man who is director of payments at the Standard Bank in Johannesburg has an impressive resume.

Granted he has an illustrious academic career that culminated in his attainment of a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Robotics and Mechanotronics, becoming the first Zimbabwean to achieve that feat.

He was again one of the first two Zimbabweans to win the Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford University in the UK in December 1990 eventually ending up on the selection committee which was always reserved for whites.

Mutambara scored another first by being the first Zimbabwean to work at the nerve centre of American intelligence and technology, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration from 1996.

He served as a visiting research fellow at NASA (JPL), in Pasadena, California in 1996; and then as a visiting research scientist at NASA John Glenn Research Centre in Cleveland, Ohio a year later.

Mutambara has managed NASA grants in various capacities since then and has been a member of the US National Science Foundation and the Robotics Review Panel Committee since 1996.

Most importantly, Mutambara is a permanent resident of the United States as he holds a Green card; thus he may become the second Zimbabwean politician, after former finance minister Chris Kuruneri, to have permanent residence in two diametrically opposed countries.

This close association with one of the centres of American espionage raises questions about Mutambara's entry into national politics, especially at a time US-Zimbabwe relations are at an all time low and when the later has clearly declared its intentions to unconstitutionally unseat the Government in Harare. Two years ago, Mutambara was quoted as saying he had no interest in national politics, he may have to tell the nation what made him change his mind.

Is he his own man?

That aside, his candidature is a serious indictment of the leadership in the Sibanda-led faction. Here are people who, for the past six years, claimed that they had what it takes to lead Zimbabwe but who could not find a leader from among themselves when push came to shove.

They had to look outside to rope in someone who was not even in the trenches during the formative stages of their party. Someone who is clearly out of touch with existential realities in Zimbabwe. Politics by its nature presupposes gradual development; if the top-four in the Sibanda-led faction failed to develop over the past six years what guarantee is there that they will ever develop?

A lot has been said about Mutambara's leadership qualities based on his days in the UZ Student Representative Council (SRC). However, after perusing reports of his exploits, one is persuaded to believe the late MDC Spokesman, Learnmore Judah Jongwe's constant refrain that, "Mutambara's only claim to fame as a student leader was that he was arrested and detained by police."

His story reads like the portrait of a hooligan.

His assumption of the SRC presidency marked the turning point from the progressive activism that had been nurtured by the likes of Rt. Brig Felix Muchemwa and the late national hero, Witness Mangwende, that had student leaders as partners in national development.

Mutambara introduced hooliganism and the perception that a good student leader is he who opposed and called the State names.

Why would one reach this conclusion?

Mutambara hails from none other than Mutambara Village well-known as a stronghold of Bishop Abel Muzorewa's UANC party that sacrificed the liberation struggle in order to rule for less than a year.

He enrolled at the UZ in 1987, after a successful stint at Hartzell High School, to read for a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.

He was elected president of the UZ SRC on August 15 1989, having served as secretary general to the SRC executive that was led by Edgar Mbwembwe the previous year. Soon after his election, relations between students and the Government soured amid allegations of anti-government activities by the students. Mutambara claimed that the university and the students' union were autonomous institutions.

"Since the union was established by an Act of Parliament, it is autonomous and exists outside Government and university authority," Mutambara was quoted as saying (The Herald August 25, 1989.)

Two months later, the University of Zimbabwe was closed indefinitely on October 4 1989, after Mutambara incited students to demonstrate leading to the destruction of offices and vice-chancellor Professor Walter Kamba's Mercedes Benz car. The vice-chancellor's car was only saved from being burnt by police intervention, though all its windows and lights were smashed.

This is the legacy Mutambara left on campus, which is why a bar in the SU building -- October 4 -- was named to mark the violent demonstrations.

Prior to the unrest, Mutambara's office had issued a series of inflammatory publications that were secretly distributed to students on October 2.

One document titled, "In Defence of Academic Freedom" claimed that the Zimbabwe Government was worse than the De Klerk regime in apartheid South Africa.

Mutambara's argument was that the University of Zimbabwe, whose Chancellor was ironically Cde Mugabe, had to be autonomous.

He was quoted as saying Cde Mugabe's influence ended at Churchill Avenue, the southern border of the campus, saying Emergency Powers Regulations could not be allowed to operate on campus.

But Professor Kamba differed saying, "Though the university could have academic freedom and autonomy, it still had to operate within the laws of the country because it was set up by an Act of Parliament, which could either be repealed or amended. The institution is an integral part of society."

After the riots, Mutambara, his secretary general, Enock Chikweche (Munyaradzi Gwisai) and the then Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary general, Morgan Tsvangirai were detained under the Emergency Powers (Maintenance of Law and Order) Regulations.

This was the first time the State had taken such drastic action against students who, since independence, had maintained a policy of dialogue.

The politicisation of the student movement was evident in the way Mutambara's SRC joined the bandwagon to demonise the outcome of the 1990 presidential and parliamentary elections, which, ironically were endorsed by their partners in the ZCTU.

The SRC, which represented aspiring workers, surprisingly also wanted to be at the forefront of May Day celebrations along with the ZCTU but was barred by the Government from doing so.

Mutambara began calling himself "the executive president of the SRC" inviting attacks from the Political Science Students Association that, on May 30 that year, accused him of dictatorial behaviour.

There certainly appears to be nothing progressive in Mutambara's tenure, the only notable thing was that it was the watershed of student activism, which has never been the same again.

Now if this is the base that Mutambara hopes to build on, then he needs to be reminded that national politics is a world apart from student politics, and Zimbabwe has since moved beyond politics of confrontation, which is why Tsvangirai is singing the blues today.

But if as he said in his statement, "as Zimbabwean citizens, it is part of our civic duty and obligation to develop political and economic solutions to the country's current problems," then he is welcome to national politics.

If he wins the MDC presidency on Sunday, many wait to see if he will live up to that statement.

Curriculum Vitae


Standard Bank

5 Simmonds Street, Johannesburg, SA

cell: (+27)-83-287-9091 Office: (+27)-11-631-1146


A Standard Bank Director with responsibilities in 17 African countries. A Research Scientist and Professor of Robotics and Mechatronics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and NASA, with business experience and skills as a Management Consultant with McKinsey & Company. High technology expert and leader, global strategy specialist, and an entrepreneur who advises senior managers and business leaders of top U.S. companies. Community leader, public intellectual, and activist who is extensively involved in socio-economic issues in both the U.S. and Africa


STANDARD BANK, JOHANNESBURG SA, 2002-Present: Director, Stanbic Africa (Payments) Developing and executing an Electronic Payments strategy in seventeen African countries


Management Consultant. Provide strategic advice to senior managers and business leaders of top USA companies

Industry Sectors: High Technology, Telecommunications, Automotive Assembly, Electrical Power/Natural Gas, Manufacturing, Financial Institutions, and Pharmaceutical and Medical Products.

Functional Expertise: Technology Management, Corporate Strategy, Global Strategy, Corporate Finance, Post-Merger Management, Business Building, and Operations Strategy and Effectiveness


Telecom company (Fortune 100) Corporate strategy, Growth study; impact: 20% increase in revenues

Hi-Tech company (Fortune 500) M&A/ Change of Ownership; impact: smooth and effective transition

Insurance company (Fortune 100) Corporate strategy-Business unit strategy: 25% increase in new business

Banking and Securities (Fortune 100) Global strategy-business unit strategy: creation of new products

Hi-Tech company (Fortune 500) operations and marketing: 30% increase in sales

Chicago Public School Systems, review of teaching effectiveness

Internal knowledge management: The value proposition for global outsourcing of call centers

Chicago Public School Systems, review of teaching and learning effectiveness (work in progress)

Sustainable Profitable Growth (insurance practice): designed innovative risk management products

Business Building (High Tech): Developed a complete semester set of lectures for Kellogg Business School


Advanced engineering research, publication of books and journal papers, taught undergraduates and graduates in the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department. Assistant Professor, 1999-2001

Established and supervised teaching and research activities in the fields of sensor fusion, and robotics.

Managed graduate controls and mechatronics laboratories, including budgets, grant proposals and hiring

Taught undergraduate classes in feedback control systems, and computer system architecture.

Taught graduate classes in nonlinear control systems, and advanced robotics.

Presented graduate research seminars in multisensor fusion and decentralised estimation and control.

Chaired and participated in academic committees.

Visiting Research Scientist, 1999-2001

Carried out research activities, wrote research proposals, managed research grants in the fields of decentralised estimation, multisensor fusion, and modular robotics.

Managed a $500,000 NASA research grant, and a $200,000 NSF grant

Research into wheeled mobile robots, decentralized communication in scalable flight formation.

Research into mechatronic design methodology, and modular robots.

Supervised Masters and PhD research students in the areas of decentralised estimation and sensor fusion.

Author, 1999-2001. Wrote sixteen refereed journal papers in the areas of Decentralised Estimation, Distributed Control, Sensor Fusion, Modular Robotics, and Mechatronics. Authored three Electrical Engineering books that are widely used in Engineering Graduate Schools, including MIT:

Decentralised Estimation and Control for Multisensor Systems, February 1998

Design and Analysis of Control Systems, June 1999

Mechatronics and Robotics: Design and Applications, December 2001


Advanced robotics research, seminar series, and NASA/ARL research grant proposal with the CMU Robotics Institute.

Visiting Research Scientist, 1998

Carried out research activities, wrote research proposals, managed research grants in field robotics, multisensor fusion, and modular robotics.

Managed a $200,000 NASA/ARL research grant

Research into experimental unmanned vehicles (XUV), their communication and supervised autonomy.

Research into mechatronic design methodology, and modular robots.

Supervised Masters and PhD research students in the areas of wheeled mobile robotics.



Teaching undergraduates and graduates, engineering research activities, research publication in the Mechanical Department.

Assistant Professor, 1995-1997. Established and supervised teaching and research activities in control systems, mechatronics and robotics.

Managed a $400,000 NASA research grant, and a $200,000 NSF grant

Taught undergraduate classes in feedback control systems, and introduction to robotics and echatronics.

Taught graduate classes in nonlinear control systems, and advanced robotics.

Presented graduate research seminars in multisensor fusion and decentralized estimation and control.

Supervised undergraduate and graduate controls and mechatronics laboratories.

Chaired and participated in academic committees.

Research into wheeled mobile robots, decentralised communication in scalable flight formation.

Research into mechatronic design methodology, and modular robots.

Supervised Masters and PhD research students in the areas of decentralised estimation and sensor fusion.


Rhodes Scholarship, Recipient, Zimbabwe (1991). Selection committee member: Florida (2000), Illinois (2001-02)

Fulbright Fellowship, Awarded, 1991

Public Lectures, Numerous (socio-economic) presentations in the US, Zimbabwe, and South Africa (1995-2001)

Africa Technology and Science Strategy (ATSS), Founder and President

Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), Elected Member, 1994

Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEE), Elected Member, 1995

British Computer Society (BCS), Elected Member, 1996

National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Student advisor, FAMU-FSU 1996-7

US National Science Foundation, and the Robotics Review Panel Committee member, 1996-2002



Mini-Master of Business Administration (MMBA), March 2001, Corporate Finance, Strategy, and Microeconomics


Doctor of Philosophy, March 1995, Robotics and Mechatronics

Master of Science, October 1992, Electrical Engineering/Computer Engineering


Bachelor of Science (Honours), December 1990, Electrical and Electronic Engineering

VISA STATUS: Zimbabwean citizen with U.S. permanent residence (Green card).

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