Mutambara fights for survival in court
Arthur Mutambara, now fighting for leadership of the Movement for Democratic Change's breakaway party, stepped on to Zimbabwe's political stage on September 15 2008 as the third signatory to the political agreement between President Robert Mugabe and arch-rival Morgan Tsvangirai.
A former student union leader at the University of Zimbabwe in the late 1980s, Mutambara initially appeared destined for a career in academia and studied robotics and mechatronics at Oxford University.
His critics have described him as a political opportunist, given his rise to the leadership of the smaller MDC party after the split in 2005.
Mutambara became deputy prime minister when the unity government was formed in February 2009.
One school of thought has it that the grand-sounding titles of MDC president and deputy prime minister made him forget the harsh reality of Zimbabwean politics, namely that grassroots support is vital for political survival.
Mutambara's fall has been traced to the MDC's congress in January last year at which Welshman Ncube was elected president of the party. It was the first signal that he had lost favour with party members. Since then, a protracted legal battle has unfolded and Mutambara has failed to take back the leadership of the party. The outcome of an appeal Mutambara filed at the supreme court against a high court ruling in June that confirmed Ncube as the legitimate leader of the MDC is still pending.
Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma declined to meet him at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting in Maputo two weeks ago, meeting Ncube instead.
Trevor Maisiri, a political analyst at the International Crisis Group, said: "The recent move by Zuma could indicate Mutambara's waning fortunes in Zimbabwean political leadership. Mutambara is young and has great potential in being part of building the nation. However, he needs to recreate his political stature and credibility either by joining one of the [other] political parties, or focusing more on a technical-development role rather than outright party politics."
But George Charamba, Mugabe's spokesperson, later came out in strong defence of Mutambara and insisted that he "still remains a principal in the unity government", despite the indications from SADC that it would no longer deal with him.
Mugabe's subsequent rebuke to his spokesperson not to defend Mutambara has been interpreted as window-dressing. There is speculation that Zanu-PF could, at an opportune time, accept Mutambara into its fold. Nhlanhla Dube, spokesperson of the MDC faction Ncube leads, said: "We wouldn't be surprised by that at all because we know that Mutambara has links to Zanu-PF and his purpose in the unity government is to buttress Zanu-PF's position."
Mutambara refused to comment on his perceived links with Zanu-PF, saying only: "The issue here is not about me or my being a principal or not. It is now a constitutional matter over Zimbabwe's sovereignty.
"There is no way that SADC and Zuma can pre-empt a supreme court matter. I have appealed and a supreme court appeal overrides any other judgment passed by the lower courts."