Arthur Mutambara: The Meaning of Leadership

Sep 08, 2007 Published under China, Global, Leadership

One of the most stimulating meetings I had at the YGL conference was with Arthur Mutambara.  I had not gotten the chance to connect with him during the conference, until I heard him ask a question at a session with the CEO of China Mobile, Wang Jianzhou.   

China Mobile is the world’s largest and fastest-growing cell phone company, and we were wowed at the enormity of their growth: 330 million subscribers, and 90 million more anticipated within the next 12 months. 

Arthur MutambaraArthur was not awed or intimidated, and yet was very elegant and logical in the way he asked Mr. Jianzhou a question.  He basically asked him, as an engineer and business executive, how he could reconcile technological growth and innovation with a closed political system and whether he felt that in the end China would be able to competitively innovate (as opposed to just emulate) and create new products, if it continued to censor the web and block political development. 

Mr. Jianzhou’s reply was that these matters are very complicated. 

I was struck that Arthur’s question was particularly gutsy, given an otherwise artificial atmosphere of total adulation that ignored the big elephant in the room.  It takes strength of character to be able to ask tough questions that could be controversial but important, and it takes elegance and sophistication to do so in a professional way. 

Later that night I got to learn where this passion and eloquence emanated from. 

Arthur leads a political party of the opposition in Zimbabwe, the Movement for Democratic Change.  Leading an opposition party in Zimbabwe is not an easy proposition: the ruler is an authoritarian dictator whose government has jailed, tortured and decimated opponents, and brought Zimbabwe down to shambles. 

Arthur actually felt he had not done enough.  “I live in a country where people may be jailed.  Where I may be jailed when I come back to my country.   I could be tortured.  I don’t know how many civil rights leaders or activists are being kept inside dark rooms here in China.  But I feel a duty to stand up and call for freedom.  If something happens to me, will others stand up?” [I am paraphrasing to the best of my ability] 

 Arthur reminded a group of YGLs that leadership is about “taking risks, self-sacrifice, and rebelling for justice” where necessary. 

Gutsy guy.

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  1. Enoch Phiri said:

    Dear Daniel,
    I am a Zimbabwe working in South Asia, i am a keen follower of Zimbabwean politics. i have also found AGO Mutambara an interesting people since his days at the university of Zimbabwe. Is it possible for you to make available your interview with him?
    I am asking because I think Zimbabwe at the moment needs leaders like him, fearless and sober in their thinking.

  2. daniel said:

    Thank you Enoch. I will alert Arthur about your post and hopefully he will get in touch.

  3. Given said:

    Hi Daniel,

    Am curious to go through the said interview too(ref:YGL Conference meeting with Arthur Mutambara) ,unfortunately, its not on the public domain,may you please send me it’s full body,or refer me where I can find it.

    May the great stands for humanity be given the platform they deserve and lessons be picked across board.



  4. daniel said:

    Answer to Given: unfortunately the meeting referenced above was not recorded so I am sorry I have no link to point to, other than this blog entry.

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