Harare – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe‘s “foot soldier” is slowly but surely turning from being a poster boy for Zanu-PF’s politics to being a villain, as the 93-year-old strongman grapples with fresh fissures in his faction-riddled party.
Saviour Kasukuwere, the youthful minister of local government, who doubles-up as the Zanu-PF national commissar, is fighting for his political life, as he faces a myriad of allegations, top among them seeking to topple Mugabe.
Hate him or love him, Kasukuwere has been credited with saving Mugabe from electoral defeat in the past decade by mobilising the restive population in successive aggressive election campaigns, including oiling the youth brigade and allegedly activating other institutions of violence against the opposition.
However, in recent weeks the political tide has appeared to turn against him, with the party faithful demanding his head. Kasukuwere and his friend Jonathan Moyo are accused of fronting a young but powerful faction within the ruling party, which insiders claim wants Mugabe to die in power and is in sync with the aspirations of the First Lady Grace.
While Kasukuwere has been at pains to vehemently deny the charges, his enemies have been sticking the knife, forcing Mugabe last week to set up a committee to probe the allegations.
Parallel party structures
Insiders told us Mugabe’s shock-trooper is “a dead-man” walking and that his fate and political career now solely depend on the Zanu-PF leader.
Critics, however, say the nonagenarian is probably playing factions in his party against each other – typical of the Machiavellian politician the veteran leader is known to use to maintain and consolidate power.
On his part, Kasukuwere is thought to be linked to a faction in Zanu-PF known as G40 which is said to be opposed to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe, while another faction, Lacoste, is said to be rooting for Mnangagwa. Lacoste is the camp reportedly behind Kasukuwere’s predicament.
But Kasukuwere told News24 he does not belong to a faction and is solidly behind Mugabe.
“I do not belong to a faction. Talk to those who have factions,” said the Zanu-PF national political commissar, putting up a brave face amid vilification by the public media.
Insiders claim despite appearing to be safe, the poster boy of Zanu-PF populist policies now faces his Waterloo due to his presidential ambitions – charges Kasukuwere says are trumped up by his political nemesis.
“There is no vacancy. President Mugabe is our party candidate in 2018,” he says, as he dismisses charges being peddled against him that he seeks to topple Mugabe by setting up parallel party structures in the ten political provinces.
‘The system is not consistent and fair’
With daggers drawn out against Kasukuwere, as provinces demand his ouster, critics say Mugabe and his wife appear to be protecting him, pointing out that those who in the past have faced similar charges have been summarily dismissed.
Reward Mushayabasa, a political analyst says the recent events show that Mugabe is not an honest broker in the factional fighting within Zanu-PF.
“He is fully behind the First Lady as one of the driving forces behind G40. Without his tacit support, G40 would be toast by now. We all know what happened to former vice president Joyce Mujuru. She was fired without even being given a fair hearing and no shred of evidence was given to support the accusations levelled against her.
“We saw the same script being used against politburo members Eunice Sande Moyo and Sarah Mahoka. Both were fired without being given a fair hearing. The recent demonstrations against Kasukuwere show Zanu-PF ‘s perverted sense of justice,” said Mushayabasa.
He added: “The system is not consistent and fair. It depends on how close one is to the First Family. If you are part of their inner circle, you are assured of protection. I think Kasukuwere might have won the battle but he is far from winning the succession war. Hard times lie ahead and these will demand more grit.”
However, Reason Wafawarova, a political analyst with close links to Zanu-PF said: “I am sure the meaning of what the provinces have been doing is clear to them, and it is hard to believe that the First Family is sharing in grief the fate of Kasukuwere.
‘Powerful and overambitious’
“What is easier to believe is that they understand what his predicament means, and that they want it managed in a way that will minimise any possible damage to the party. In short, it is hard to see a future in Kasukuwere’s role as the party’s commissar. His rivals simply want him removed from that role and it all appears like they are headed for achievement.”
But Ricky Mukonza, another political analyst closely following Zimbabwe politics, believes Mugabe will not get rid of Kasukuwere, saying as the poster-boy of Zanu-PF politics Kasukuwere represents a counter-faction that is necessary to keep the Mnangagwa one in check.
“This is how Mugabe has managed to remain at the helm of Zanu-PF for all these years – the old trick of divide and rule,” said Mukonza.
He added that all the drama about provinces voting Kasukuwere out may have been allowed for two reasons; firstly Mugabe may have realised that Kasukuwere was getting too powerful and overambitious and therefore needed to have his wings clipped, and secondly, it may have been a bait for the Munangagwa faction: meant to expose their strategies in their bid to replace Mugabe.
“What has been evident in the Zanu-PF power games is that Mugabe plans for both external and internal threats to his power in equal measure,” said Mukonza.
Although the committee to probe Kasukuwere has finished its investigations, insiders maintain he has morphed from being the Zanu-PF poster boy of politics to villain.