Zimbabwe Digital News
Former Zimbabwe deputy Prime Minister Professor Arthur Mutambara returned to public life in style this week after the release of: In Search of the Elusive Zimbabwean Dream, Volume 1.
The 334-page memoir: An Autobiography of Thought Leadership, is the first in a three-book series that explores his thoughts and philosophic disposition over a hectic 35 years of professional life, the highlight of which he was one of the three principals in the power-sharing agreement that was facilitated by SADC after the 2008 elections.
Mutambara left active politics and public life after he did not participate the Zimbabwe general elections of 2013.
Three respected political analysts on all matters Zimbabwe, political analyst Dr Ibbo Mandaza, journalist Brezhnev Malaba and politics lecturer Miles Tendi have read the book, and reviewed it for different publications this week ahead of the public book launch in Harare on June 14.
The book is already available on Amazon (kindle version and paperback).
zimbabwedigitalnews.com publishes today the three reviews.
1. Miles Tendi: Pushing against Zimbabwe’s Growing Anti-intellectualism
Arthur Mutambara is probably best known as Zimbabwe’s former Deputy Prime Minister from 2009 to 2013. In those 4 years Mutambara, Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe were the principal leaders in a power-sharing government brokered by ex-South African president Thabo Mbeki, on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), following a disputed election. Mutambara left active politics for a career in the private sector when the power-sharing government’s tenure ended in 2013.
He has used his retreat from the hurly-burly of active politics to quietly write up a trilogy of works, broadly entitled: In Search of the Elusive Zimbabwean Dream: An Autobiography of Thought Leadership.
The first in this trilogy of works, which is the main focus of this review, is The Formative Years and the Big Wide World (1983-2002). The Path to Power (2003-2008) and The Deputy Prime Minister and Beyond (2009- ) are due to be released in the coming months, completing the trilogy.
The goal of The Formative Years is to set out the ideas and historical processes that shaped the young Mutambara’s political thinking and conduct from high school to his university years in Zimbabwe, England and the United States of America.
Mutambara’s later political convictions and actions, discussed in The Path to Power and The Deputy Prime Minister are therefore best understood against the backdrop of his early ideas expressed in The Formative Years. The Formative Years is a compendium of Mutambara’s unadulterated written public statements, speeches and essays from 1983 to 2002.
Thus, the book offers us an appreciation of Mutambara’s early ideas and creative expression in their unmodified form and in the context of the prevailing philosophies of those years. This is a bold move.
Mutambara deserves credit for being brave and honest enough to publish unmodified his early ideas because some of them are not complimentary about his political outlook at the time.
Take for instance Mutambara’s initial uncritical support for Mugabe’s undemocratic one-party state ambition. The absence of a central place for gender politics in Mutambara’s The Formative Years will also rankle its feminist readers. The Formative Years engages a range of themes. It opens with the young Mutambara’s starry-eyed perceptions of the ways of guerrilla fighters in Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation war.
Later we read his critical turn against the one-party state ideal and escalating government corruption, amid late 1980s radical student politics, which Mutambara led at the University of Zimbabwe. While his initial stance on the one-party state changed, Mutambara’s adherence to Socialism remained unbroken in his undergraduate years, underlining his durable commitment to an ideal of social and economic justice.
Mutambara’s views on national politics
Mutambara’s views on national politics are complemented with his standpoints on the more immediate concerns of a late 1980s university student in Zimbabwe. The sanctity of academic freedom, opposition to corruption within the Zimbabwe Students Union and the betterment of university students’ declining living conditions on campus, amongst other direct concerns, were important sites of struggle for the youthful Mutambara.
His statements on these matters showcase the radical beliefs, flamboyant rhetoric and the resultant militant actions that characterised the student politics Mutambara participated in. For example, at a graduation ceremony in June 1990, Mutambara, then the President of the Students’ Union, declared in hostile manner to president Mugabe: ‘we [the students’ movement] do not want a one-party state in Zimbabwe!’ A visibly irritated Mugabe replied: ‘if you take such extreme views we will be dismissive of your views’.
A heated verbal confrontation between both leaders ensued, in full view of dignitaries attending the graduation ceremony. The final section of The Formative Years is a collection of Mutambara’s political views during his studies abroad, which began in the University of Oxford in 1991. Just as Mutambara was an elected leader in Zimbabwean student politics, he was voted to two student leadership posts during his years as a graduate student in Oxford.
His time in England was followed by research and teaching stints at NASA and MIT in America, where he took part in various speaking tours at historically black colleges, all the while remaining engaged with the emerging political, social and economic crisis in his Zimbabwean homeland.
Mutambara’s time studying and working in the West brought about some changes in his political beliefs. He was confronted by hard empirical realities, particularly ‘the triumph’ of liberal democracy and capitalism over communism. However, Mutambara did not fully embrace ‘the triumph’ of Western capitalism, preferring to remain anchored in a Leftist critique of the injustices of the new world order and belief in a renewed Pan Africanism.
Another hard reality Mutambara faced was UK student bodies’ lack of direct impact on national politics, which was not necessarily the case in Zimbabwe. Yet the strong accountability and transparency mechanisms and effective organisation of UK student groups provided instructive lessons for the young Mutambara.
On the whole, this book is about one man’s journey of political viewpoints. A journey in which the idea of justice constantly shadows the author’s steps. The Formative Years will also be of significance to those with an interest in the politics of students’ groups.
There is an increasing hollowing out of Zimbabwe’s national political discourse. The political speeches of Zimbabwe’s national leaders are often imbued with entitlement, threats, self-righteousness, sycophancy and ignorance, not rational compelling argument.
Media coverage of Zimbabwean politics is hardly edifying to boot. Reasoned political ideas appear to matter less these days, making Mutambara’s In Search of the Elusive Zimbabwean Dream: An Autobiography of Thought Leadership a refreshing contribution simply because it takes ideas seriously. Zimbabwe needs to take ideas seriously again.
*Miles Tendi teaches Politics in the University of Oxford.
Prof Mutambara meets then Fifa boss Sepp Blatter
2: Brezhnev Malaba: Chasing the elusive Zimbabwe dream
Arthur Guseni Oliver Mutambara, a world-renowned robotics professor and one of the most intriguing figures in Zimbabwean public life, has rarely written about the private dimensions of his life – until now.
In this 249-page memoir, In Search of the Elusive Zimbabwean Dream: An Autobiography of Thought Leadership, the first of a three-book series that explores his thoughts and philosophical disposition over a period of 35 years, he delivers a fascinating, provocative and rigorously engrossing tour de force.
Volume one is sub-titled The Formative Years and the Big Wide World (1983-2002).
But what exactly is “the Zimbabwean dream”? Before we even venture there, we must also ask: what does it mean to be Zimbabwean?
This is a nation which held immense promise at independence in 1980. The Zimbabwe dollar was stronger than the US dollar. The country boasted sub-Saharan Africa’s most industrialised economy after South Africa.
Today, 37 years later, there is no national currency. The UN says the rate of formal unemployment has reached a staggering 95% and 72% of the population lives in “extreme poverty”. What “dream” can the world possibly expect from a country led by a 93-year-old president who is eyeing re-election next year?
Surely, dreaming is for tomorrow’s people, not yesterday’s men.
To locate the Zimbabwean dream, we must trace its roots. Mutambara, who turned 50 on May 25, proffers a compelling argument. In his eyes, the Zimbabwean dream can only be realised, first, through a shared national vision and, second, through the creation of what he terms “brand Zimbabwe”.
Mutambara is at his eloquent best
“For example, we could aspire to make Zimbabwe a globally competitive economy, a prosperous nation with a high quality of life for our people by 2040. Ostensibly, we can then conceive three supporting pillars for this vision. The first pillar should be about the economy, while the second focuses on society, and the third pillar deals with our politics,” he writes.
Mutambara is at his eloquent best when he elucidates the meaning of “a shared Zimbabwean dream”. He does not prescribe a formulaic dream but proposes the collective thought process that could lead to the expression of “a quintessentially Zimbabwean Dream”.
Here his narrative – flowing crisply in present continuous tense – teases and tantalises. Can Zimbabweans dare to dream, in spite of all their well-documented woes? Unfortunately, in this part of the autobiography there is not much meat for readers to really sink their teeth into. But wait a minute, could this be the rocket scientist’s way of rousing our curiosity ahead of the publication of the next two books in the trilogy?
As I read this book, the meaning of “thought leadership” permeated my musings. When Joel Kuntzman, editor-in-chief of Booz, Allen & Hamilton magazine, coined the term in 1994, he emphasised the importance of having ideas “that merit attention”. Mutambara defines the term as “intellectual influence through innovative and pioneering thinking”.
As a journalist, I have found the concept of “thought leadership” captivating. A related term is “public intellectual”. The legendary rabble-rouser Christopher Hitchens, who shares Oxonian leanings with Mutambara, once famously remarked that the duty of the intellectual is essentially twofold: first, to argue for complexity and to insist that phenomena in the world of ideas should not be sloganised or reduced to easily repeated formulae and, second, the intellectual must show that some things are simple and ought not to be obfuscated.
Cauldron of Zimbabwe’s notoriously unforgiving national politics
In an intellectually robust and bare-knuckled manner that has come to typify his persona, Mutambara traces the thread of values that has defined his journey from high school top-achiever, leading scientist, business consultant and his eventful plunge into the cauldron of Zimbabwe’s notoriously unforgiving national politics. There are startlingly vivid accounts of Mutambara’s stand against President Robert Mugabe’s fevered machinations to impose a one-party state in the late 1980s. Amid economic meltdown at the time, students at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), led by Mutambara among other organisers, displayed amazing bravery and struck a chord with the toiling masses.
Like most Zimbabweans of his generation, Mutambara was an ardent supporter of the national liberation project. In those days, he even described Mugabe as “our upright and incorruptible revolutionary”. But when the revolution went off the rails as corrupt and autocratic leaders subverted the people’s struggle, he committed himself to mobilising against them.
One of the most vexing puzzles in Zimbabwe in the aftermath of the power-sharing Government of National Unity from 2009 to 2013, has been: Where is Arthur Mutambara these days? The autobiography will answer the question. After the 2013 general election, he withdrew from political life. The former deputy prime minister is currently president of the African News Agency, a technology-driven multimedia news platform.
Among the formative experiences in Mutambara’s life was the anti-corruption demonstration of September 1988 by UZ students. He was secretary-general and authored a statement denouncing Mugabe’s government.
In October 1988, Mugabe denounced the protesting students, dismissing them as foolish renegades, and abruptly terminated the state-funded grants and loans of 14 of the 15 students’ union leaders. But they could not touch Mutambara – his university education was being financed by an Anglo American Corporation scholarship. Despite expending his energies on what he describes as “revolutionary confrontation”, he did not neglect his studies and continued winning the university’s coveted book prizes.
There was no viable political opposition in Zimbabwe in the immediate aftermath of the 1987 Unity Accord which saw veteran nationalist Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo’s party Zapu captured and subsumed by Mugabe’s Zanu. With no opposition in what was now a de facto one-party state, the daring actions of students went a long way in galvanising the citizenry. The government hit back viciously, deploying police and soldiers on campus. Badly injured, Mutambara was held in detention without trial for six weeks.
Aged 28, he had a BSc, MSc and PhD under his belt
Mutambara attained a BSc(honours) in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the UZ. He applied for a Rhodes Scholarship and a Fulbright Scholarship. Incredibly, he was offered both. He opted for the Rhodes Scholarship which took him to Oxford University in Britain where he was awarded a Master of Science in Computer Engineering and subsequently a PhD in Robotics and Mechatronics.
It was during his days at Merton College that Mutambara joined the Oxford Union debate chamber and rubbed shoulders with celebrated intellectual dissidents.
The graduate programmes and examinations at Oxford are exacting and demanding, even for the most intelligent of students. Mutambara completed the Master’s degree in one year and the doctorate in just over two years. Donning formal attire and an academic gown, he orally defended his thesis, in a record 45 minutes, stunning his supervisors. It takes some candidates six years to attain a PhD and others have either dropped out or committed suicide in utter frustration.
In his usual brash manner, Mutambara basks in the glory of his achievements at Oxford. Aged 28, he had a BSc, MSc and PhD under his belt. He said: “This African has just cracked the doctorate in two years and two months, and passed without any changes! The traditional Oxford establishment, while pleased with my achievements, looks a bit perturbed. I guess the African has outperformed the master, in his own territory. What an example of effective counter penetration!”
The man is oozing with confidence. At first glance, there are segments of his autobiography which suggest vainglorious boasting. It only takes a nuanced understanding of his personality from the formative days of Hartzell High School to the “City of Dreaming Spires”, to fully comprehend where he is coming from and where he is going.
Besides, although Mutambara has his flaws like every human being, he has plenty to be proud of: a sharp intellect, a fluency in debate, an easy wit, a fiercely independent worldview, and the willingness to denunciate dogma.
Oxford is not the end of his journey. In 1995 he sets out for the US, “the belly of the beast”, where he works as a research scientist at Nasa, professor at the prestigious MIT and management consultant at McKinsey & Company.
In 2002, he returned to Africa, convinced he was now equipped with the necessary strategies and paradigms to make a difference. No doubt, the new book will spark debate and fuel speculation in Zimbabwe. Is Mutambara preparing to run for president? Time will tell.
In 2002, he returned to Africa, convinced he was now equipped with the necessary strategies and paradigms to make a difference
3: Ibbo Mandaza: Mutambara’s search for ‘elusive’ Zimbabwe dream
Arthur Mutambara’s In Search of the Elusive Zimbabwean Dream is a most welcome addition to the Sapes Books’ stable of illustratious autobiographies/biographies: Elijah Mudenda (Zambia: A Generation of Struggle, 1999); Joshua Nkomo (The Story of My Life, 2001) and Edgar Tekere (A Lifetime of Struggle, 2006); and, forthcoming, in addition to Arthur Mutambara’s three volumes, a biography of another liberation stalwart, Moton Malianga: Zimbabwe’s Unsung Liberation Hero (August 2017) by Fred Zindi.
Mutambara’s work represents a very unusual, but engaging autobiography, reflecting as it does enormous diligence and painstaking detail, in the form of three volumes which precede the autobiography proper in the not-too-distant future.
So, this Volume 1 covers The Formative Years and the Big Wide World (1983-2002). In his own words, in the Preface: “This series is a collection of three volumes of grounded reflections that I expressed over time, as I endeavored to move, lead and inspire people. These reflections were informed by research, observation and experiences.
“The trilogy records my initiatives that sought to turn strategic thinking into reality through the speed of execution. The work is ostensibly documentation of my participation in, and contributions to, thought leadership-intellectual influence through innovative and pioneering thinking (his emphasis).”
This Volume, in turn, consists of three sections: “A Naive, but Vigorous Young Mind; No to the One-Party State! Yes to Socialism” and Out into the Big Wide World. Each of the sections is introduced through a preface which explains the “context, circumstances and issues”, and thereby affording a useful guide to the reader, as the autobiography unfolds.
The young and “naive” student at Hartzell High School, immersed in the “uncritical and romantic view of Zimbabwe’s National liberation Struggle”, but also a brilliant and outstanding young man, a genius no doubt: eight distinctions (A grades) in the Cambridge Ordinary Level Examinations in 1984; again, in 1986, top student in all five advanced level subjects of Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Further Mathematics and General Paper; and so, from the very onset, we have in Mutambara one of the best intellects of Zimbabwe and beyond.
But young Arthur is already developing a commendable social consciousness, with an avid appetite for political and international affairs, a leader in the making.
Not surprising he is not only — and predictably — an outstanding student at the University of Zimbabwe (1987-1991) where he studied for a B.Sc degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, but also a student leader of note.
Besides, these were the heady days in Zimbabwean politics.
The glamour of independence had waned, and likewise its fruits were depleting fast. As such, student unrest is often a symptom of the times and the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) was no exception under the leadership of the likes of Mutambara, who served as secretary-general of the students unto in 1988 and as its President in 1989.
This volume sets the stage for the subsequent two volumes
These were the student days that heralded the emergence of opposition politics in Zimbabwe, along with the kind of thought leaders like Mutambara himself, Tendai Biti, Lovemore Madhuku, Munyaradzi Gwisai, Thoko Matshe and Brian Kagoro; to name, but a few of a generation that ought to have been at the helm of leadership in Zimbabwe.
Interestingly, the volume contains photographs that, inter alia, speak to the authors’ academic achievements at the UZ, while flaunting many of such of his contemporaries in those days.
This includes a photograph of the author with the Chancellor at the UZ graduation on July 12, 1991, “after an attempt to refuse to kneel down” as Mugabe was capping him. Likewise section three is well embellished with photographs that tell the story of the man, his times and his associates.
Section three is an account of Mutambara’s student life at Oxford University under the illustrious Rhodes Scholarship and later as a professional in the United States —Out into the Big Wide World (1991-2002), as he titles it.
In fact, Mutambara was awarded both the Rhodes and Fulbright Scholarships, but turned down the later to pursue the former. These are scholarships awarded for distinguished academic excellence and outstanding leadership.
At Merton College at the University of Oxford, Mutambara enrolled for the M.Sc. in Computer Engineering in 1991; and in the following year (1992) he registered for the PhD. in Robotics and Mechatronics. From 1995 to 2002, Arthur Mutambara is in the USA engaged as a research scientist at NASA, Professor at MIT and Management Consultant at McKinsey and Company, “among other interesting assignments”.
Throughout Mutambara remained the political animal, as much in student politics at Oxford University, as in his interactions with African American politics in the USA; and in his own words, “In all intellectual and activist type involvement, I never lost sight of the Zimbabwean agenda”.
And so it is that this volume sets the stage for the subsequent two volumes, which will no doubt tell us more about Mutambara’s “search” for the Elusive Zimbabwean Dream.
Mutambara is the former Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. Mutambara, former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe were the three principals who created and led the Government of National Unity. He is currently the president of the African News Agency, a technology-driven multi-media news platform.
Mutambara has written two electrical engineering books, and is a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the Institute of Engineering and Technology, Zimbabwe Institute of Engineers and the Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences.
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