THE emergence of a leading figure in the faction of the now-late former president, Robert Mugabe, to contest against his successor and incumbent, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, has sent the ruling party into panic mode ahead of the August 23 general elections.
Saviour Kasukuwere (53), a former cabinet colleague of Mnangagwa under Mugabe, has by throwing his name into the presidential race, thrust the cat among the pigeons as the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) saunters towards the watershed polls.
In power since independence in 1980 and currently celebrating 60 years of existence, the former guerilla movement was, until now, bracing up for a challenge by the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), formed last year by Nelson Chamisa (45), another ex-cabinet minister, but during the uneasy unity government by ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Also referred to as Tyson for his physical demeanor and aggressive approach to politics, Kasukuwere is among several loyalists of the so-called Generation 40 (G40) faction of ZANU-PF that supported then First Lady Grace Mugabe, to succeed her husband as president.
Mugabe died in 2019, in Singapore, aged 95.
Allegedly surviving an attempt on his life during the coup fracas, Kasukuwere fled the country when the military ousted Mugabe and targeted “criminals” that “surrounded” him.
That was in 2017 when Mnangagwa (80 now) was eventually installed as president. Kasukuwere has been in exile since.
His emergence as an independent candidate has thus come as a bolt from the blue, much to the panic of the ruling party despite his standing as an independent candidate, who has a history of poor performance in Zimbabwe’s politics, a dichotomy between ZANU-PF and MDC for the better part of 43 years of independence.
ZANU-PF has reacted with panic to Kasukuwere’s candidacy. There have been instantaneous attempts not only to block his aspirations for the presidency but to dissuade him from coming to Zimbabwe, where apparently, he faces arrest.
“We have two warrants of arrest that have not been cancelled yet,” the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) stated.
Kasukuwere argues he was cleared, in 2019, of criminal charges that had been slapped against him. ZRP, however, insists he has a case to answer, through a vague statement.
“The first warrant was issued by Magistrate Mujaya on 18 January 2019 where he (Kasukuwere) was facing criminal law charges under Section 174(b) (a) of the Criminal Law code because he defaulted in court under (sic).”
“The second warrant is under 39/18. He was given his passport but failed to submit it back within the stipulated period. So the police should execute these warrants they are currently in possession of and so far, there are no indications of cancellation,” police stated.
Virginia Mabhiza, the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Permanent Secretary, also threw herself into the fray.
“When someone is issued with a warrant of arrest, they should submit before the law. What he should do is submit himself before the law and seek cancellation of the warrants,” she said.
Mabhiza added, “He (Kasukuwere) has his lawyers, so they should advise him on what he should do. His submission to the law is standard procedure.”
Police and the judiciary are denounced as an appendage of the ruling party. The ruling party-aligned ZANU-PF Patriots also endorsed the blockade against Kasukuwere.
“Fugitives must be arrested and kept away from the people,” the group stated.
A ZANU-PF activist is also trying to stop Kasukuwere in his tracks, claiming his candidature is unconstitutional.
In a court petition, the activist, Lovedale Mangwana, argues the former minister has been out of Zimbabwe for 18 months, hence his candidature ought to be invalid.
Kasukuwere and his camp, which includes another exiled ex-cabinet, Walter Mzembi, however, remain defiant.
“Lawfare or Ziyambi cannot stop our indefatigable spirit or idea whose time has come,” Mzembi said.
This was an allusion to Ziyambi Ziyambi, the justice minister. Kasukuwere noted that ZANU-PF “ran” to the High Court.
“We are marching on,” Kasukuwere vowed.
“No retreat, no surrender! Pound for Pound,” said the politician nicknamed after the boxer Mike Tyson.
Kasukuwere remains a divisive figure in Zimbabwe, where he was part of a Mugabe regime that presided over the infringement of the liberties of Zimbabweans, resulting in a crisis that still bedevils the country today.
He has launched his campaign in neighbouring South Africa. Africa’s most industrialised economy has been a hive of activity in recent days as, besides Kasukuwere, Chamisa also held a pre-election rally.
The ZANU-PF led government also had information minister, Monica Mutswangwa, in the neighbouring country.
All were soliciting votes, a reminder of the reluctance of the government to provide for a Diaspora vote. It is an emotive issue in Zimbabwe.
Critics believe the ZANU-PF-led government fears this could influence its defeat, in that millions of Zimbabweans that fled the country blame controversial policies by the ruling party and could vote against it.
The foray into South Africa by the politicians into Zimbabwe came at a time the host country is bearing the brunt of the crisis in Zimbabwe.
Had it not been an extension by the Department of Home Affairs on legal Zimbabweans within the neighbouring country to apply for new permits, South Africa could have begun mass deportations of more than 170, 000 Zimbabweans from July 1.
There is rising sentiment against immigrants as South Africa’s economy, the most diversified in the continent, tumbles.
On Tuesday, Statistics South Africa reported 21 000 job losses in the first quarter of this year.
There is intense competition for jobs in the lower skills sphere. Radicals believe Zimbabweans that fled hardships are to blame for the shrinking opportunities.
Parties encouraged Zimbabweans to come home and vote.
“We also thank the South African government and citizens of South Africa for their support and hospitality to Zimbabweans during our challenging times,” Chamisa said.
A total of 11 candidates are to contest the presidential poll in Zimbabwe.
– CAJ News