Quick view- An assessment of Zimbabwe’s political leaders


President Robert Mugabe is more clever and more ruthless than any other politician in Zimbabwe. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is brave, committed but is also flawed, indecisive, not readily open to advice and has questionable judgment in selecting those around him. Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara is young and ambitious but he has spent too much time reading US campaign messaging manuals and too little thinking about real issues.


This is former United States ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell’s assessment of Zimbabwe’s key political leaders. But this was in July 2007 just before he left the country to Afghanistan.  Dell is now the United States ambassador to Kosovo, another trouble spot.

Here is Dell’s assessment in detail:

President Robert Mugabe:

Robert Mugabe has survived for so long because he is more clever and more ruthless than any other politician in Zimbabwe. To give the devil his due, he is a brilliant tactitian and has long thrived on his ability to abruptly change the rules of the game, radicalize the political dynamic and force everyone else to react to his agenda.  However, he is fundamentally hampered by several factors: his ego and belief in his own infallibility; his obsessive focus on the past as a justification for everything in the present and future; his deep ignorance on economic issues (coupled with the belief that his 18 doctorates give him the authority to suspend the laws of economics, including supply and demand); and his essentially short-term, tactical style.


Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai:

Morgan Tsvangarai is a brave, committed man and, by and large, a democrat. He is also the only player on the scene right now with real star quality and the ability to rally the masses. But Tsvangarai is also a flawed figure, not readily open to advice, indecisive and with questionable judgment in selecting those around him. He is the indispensable element for opposition success, but possibly an albatross around their necks once in power. In short, he is a kind of Lech Walesa character: Zimbabwe needs him, but should not rely on his executive abilities to lead the country’s recovery.


Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara:

Arthur Mutambara is young and ambitious, attracted to radical, anti-western rhetoric and smart as a whip. But, in many respects he’s a light-weight who has spent too much time reading U.S. campaign messaging manuals and too little thinking about the real issues.


Welshman Ncube:

Welshman Ncube has proven to be a deeply divisive and destructive player in the opposition ranks and the sooner he is pushed off the stage, the better. But he is useful to many, including the regime and South Africa, so is probably a cross to be borne for some time yet.


Civil Society:

Unfortunately, among the MDC’s flaws is its inability to work more effectively with the rest of civil society. The blame for this can be shared on both sides (many civil society groups, like the NCA, are single-issue focused and take the overall dynamic in unhelpful directions; others, like WOZA, insist on going it alone as a matter of principle).

What is you view of Dell’s assessment? Let’s debate about this through our comment box. You need to register to comment.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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