Chasing the elusive Zimbabwean dream
Mutambara’s narrative teases and tantalises as he defines ‘thought leadership’, writes
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, 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 ACCORD: AT THE Signing ceremony of the Zimbabwe Global Political Agreement in Harare, September 2008, from left: former deputy prime minister Prof Arthur Mutambara, President Robert Mugabe, former PM Morgan Tsvangirai, and then SA president Thabo Mbeki.
ASIAN TIGER: AT THE WEF in China in 2011, Mutambara is seen with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
HIGH PLACES: Mutambara, his wife Dr Jacqueline Mutambara, and former US president Bill Clinton at the WEF in Davos in 2010.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE: Prof Arthur Mutambara as a six-year-old boy (far right) with siblings Audrey (back), Tsitsi (in blue), and Rosemary (middle) taken at their home village in Chimanimani in 1973. Today, they are: Dr Audrey Mutambara, Prof Tsitsi Mutambara, Dr Rosemary Mutambara and Prof Arthur Mutambara.